With darkness falling earlier it has become more obvious how many of the trailers and RVs parked in driveways around Jefferson County are full-time dwelling units. As the temperature drops and the …
With darkness falling earlier it has become more obvious how many of the trailers and RVs parked in driveways around Jefferson County are full-time dwelling units. As the temperature drops and the rains begin in earnest, I am reminded of the immense sacrifice that is required to live in these, and other types of unconventional “homes.”
Living in small spaces, uninsulated spaces, spaces with no foundation, and spaces without indoor plumbing presents a constant array of challenges. Heat and mold-reduction are challenges. Dry storage is a huge challenge. Socializing is a challenge. Working from home is a challenge. The precarity of living in a dwelling that may be unpermitted and that will not provide stability during an earthquake is a challenge. Privacy is a challenge. Making space for any dining table at all can be a challenge.
These intimate difficulties are pronounced in the wet months, and they were put into especially sharp relief during the heat dome and in the days leading up to what could have been a heavy storm this week; two historically unprecedented events in one year that pose a much larger threat to those without an adequate home.
I know some of these challenges because my family lived in an RV when I was 11.
We had recently moved to Port Townsend and we chose to live in an RV while deciding whether to settle here. In winters I recall mold growing in every crevice of my “room” above the cab, and droplets of condensed water falling on my sleeping bag. My 13th birthday had to be hosted at a friend’s house.
When the lifestyle became unsustainable, we were able to buy a home with relative ease and continue investing in this community. If our story had happened today, we would have had to stay in the RV or move away.
Not only can these living situations be personally undesirable and lead to negative health impacts, it is unsustainable for our local economy to rely on people living in precarious dwelling units. Which it does.
These individuals work in every industry of our community, from nonprofits to public schools, from agriculture to maritime, and from food service to healthcare. Many of my peers live in these types of situations. This face of the housing crisis is the ugly reality that props up the “Victorian seaport and arts community” we advertise.
The deep irony is, of course, that more than 3,000 proper housing units sit chronically vacant across the county.
We must confront this paradox, this stark illustration of income and wealth inequality, together.
We must all ask ourselves what we as individuals, as institutions, as neighborhoods, and as a city and county, can do to reduce the number of empty homes, to provide quality housing options for all our community members, and to create an economy that reflects the progressive values we espouse. Because everyone deserves to eat dinner at a table.
(Justine Gonzalez-Berg is the Director of Housing Solutions Network and a volunteer board member of Olympic Housing Trust.)
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Herbert T Birdsfoot
Wednesday, November 3 Report this