RV: The County wants to remove 900 vehicles from local roads in the next three years. SMDP Photo

Over the last several years, Angelenos have grown accustomed to RV encampments. From Malibu to Lancaster, stationary (often immobile) recreational vehicles dot state highways, service drives and sidestreets, providing shelter to some of LA County’s 69,000 homeless residents.

But concerns over crime rates, environmental issues and squalid conditions have spurred LA County Supervisors to action.

Eight months ago, Supervisors asked their staff to draw up a comprehensive report on the growing issue, requesting data on RV locations, occupants and crime rates, plus funding sources and plans to support homeless people living in RVs while also removing the dilapidated vehicles from public roads. 

With that report in hand, Supervisors have now embarked on a 36-month plan to remove some 900 such vehicles from LA County roads while making contact with at least 1,500 RV inhabitants (with a goal of 500 per year for three years). With an estimated 5,200 RVs being used as shelter around the county, that means a little fewer than one in five RVs would be removed from public space over the next three years, with particular focus on targeted areas where county data shows crime has increased.

Where exactly these hot-spot areas are was not clear as of the Sept. 13 meeting; the staff report for the hearing approving the new RV protocols said priority areas would be based on this year’s Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) homeless count data, which was released earlier this month and had not yet been integrated into the report.

The plan proposes Supervisors’ staff consult with LA County Sheriff’s HOST (Homeless Outreach Street Team), the nonprofit St. Joseph Center, Public Works, Public Health, Department of Health Services and LAHSA on an implementation plan before the end of the calendar year.

In part, the plan would establish at least one safe parking site for RVs in each supervisorial district, as well as establish guidelines and responsibilities for dismantling inoperable RVs as well as vehicles that are not up to code.

Speaking at the Tuesday hearing, Supervisor Chair Holly Mitchell cited new homeless count numbers that showed a dip in the number of unsheltered homeless individuals, even as the total number of homeless people in the county rose by about 4% from 2020 to 2022. 

“Our policies focused on unsheltered individuals are paying off and it’s so important that we continue working to bring more people off the streets into a appropriate housing settings coupled with services,” Mitchell said. “We also know that over the last 24 months with the onset of COVID, RV encampments have grown exponentially throughout the county. 

“As [with], I’m sure, all of you, my office receives literally hundreds of calls and letters weekly regarding RVs,” Mitchell told her fellow Supervisors. “We hear about the health and safety challenges experienced by the people who are living in them, as well as the impact of the RVs on the surrounding community and neighborhood businesses as well as the environment. We heard several callers call in today in public comment that raised that point. We have heard and know and have seen the fires that have put both our unhoused and housed residents in grave danger and compromised infrastructure.”

Michell praised the new report and called it a “roadmap” for actions to take on issues surrounding RV encampments.

“Today, we have a much better understanding of the problem we’re facing, its scope and magnitude in unincorporated areas of the county where we have the highest rates of RV encampments,” Mitchell said. “Now that we have a roadmap to guide us, it’s absolutely urgent that this board pass today’s motion to direct the appropriate timing, funding and efforts to implement this three year countywide RV encampment pilot program, particularly for our hardest hit are the hotspots.”

Supervisors approved the motion unanimously, 5-0.