Most of everything Jared and Jennifer owned was contained in the thin walls of the camper trailer that was towed behind their broken-down Ford F-350. A blue tarp covered the truck’s open hood, and a small stool stood in front of the truck’s bumper, wet from the rain.
A muddy path had been trodden from the open hood of the car where the engine was in bad shape to the side door of the camp trailer where the couple had been sleeping for days.
Their truck and trailer were parked on the side of the street in a Renton neighborhood, just a few blocks from the house where they had rented a room before being asked to leave just weeks earlier.
The rent they paid for the room was affordable, especially compared to the high rents in the Puget Sound region. To avoid having to pay much more expensive rent than they were paying before, they decided to buy a truck and trailer so they could travel and live more affordably.
Their ideal plan, however, is thwarted when the truck Jared bought on the Facebook marketplace breaks down less than a month later, leaving them stranded on the very driveway they were essentially kicked out of. Jared got to work fixing the engine, which he said had a clogged oil cooler.
Trapped in their previous owners’ driveway, the couple said the owners were watching and keeping a close eye on them because they obviously wanted the couple off their property and on their way, Jared said.
Eventually, the owners had enough and the couple was forced to drag their situation down a block. That’s where they stayed, parked in front of several houses that enjoyed a wonderful view of the Renton Airport and Lake Washington.
Neighbors, apparently concerned about the camper trailer parked across the street, came to check on the couple. Jared said they told him they were mostly just making sure the couple didn’t get into trouble in the neighborhood.
They said the neighbors were mostly nice, but that frequent calls to police about the couple’s vehicle could indicate other attitudes the neighbors may have had toward them. The couple said some of the neighbors may have thought the trailer “was polluting their view.”
When the police came to check on the couple and their vehicle, he explained his situation. Jared said the officer he contacted was initially nice, but now seems only interested in getting his trailer off the street.
Under threats of towing and confiscation of their only shelter, the couple began to panic for fear of becoming homeless.
Police marked the trailer’s windows with orange writing to indicate an abandoned vehicle. The couple were told the vehicle would be treated as abandoned, even though they live in it.
They said police told them to get out of town and out of Renton. It was recommended that they go to Seattle. Jared said he told a police officer that if they towed the truck and trailer they would “really be stuck in [their] city.”
Sgt. Steven Morris of the Renton Police Department said if a vehicle weighs less than 12,000 pounds gross weight and can be legally parked on the street, meaning it doesn’t block mailboxes, driveways, etc., it can’t be in the same place for more than 72 hours.
Asked if the department would tow a vehicle even if it meant leaving someone homeless, Morris said it’s a “very complex matter and it’s handled on a case-by-case basis, as towing companies will not tow a vehicle if there is anyone inside. time.”
According to The Seattle Times reports, Seattle, where the couple was told to go, is facing its own RV parking problem amid the homelessness crisis, having recently announced an increase in enforcement of recreational vehicle parking. According to the reportthe Seattle Department of Transportation has issued about 3,350 citations and impounded 1,700 vehicles since October 2021.
On May 17, after days of living without running water and without major power, police informed Jared and Jennifer that they would have until the next day to remove their vehicle and trailer or have them towed and impounded.
The couple sat together in the trailer the morning of the day they were told their trailer could be towed. Jared nervously peered through the trailer’s window blinds, checking to see if the police had arrived with a tow truck. Jennifer wondered what would happen if she locked herself and all the trailer tires inside, wondered if the police would be deterred or if they would force their way into her only refuge.
Jared mentioned a friend of his who had been camping in a homeless camp behind a Home Depot in Seattle. Jennifer asked if they could end up camping there. Jared rejected the idea, citing the amount of the theft.
He said that at the camp people will pick their belongings without asking. He said his friend had been robbed there. It was a situation he wanted to avoid.
Jennifer said the uncertainty has been one of the worst parts of the whole experience. He also pointed to the lack of understanding from his former owners, his neighbors and the police.
“I really don’t appreciate being treated with such disdain,” Jennifer said. “I don’t think people think about how they make other people feel when they look down on us because of circumstances beyond our control.”
The couple told police they were able to pay, with the help of Jared’s father, to have their truck and trailer moved to a new location so they could avoid becoming homeless through impoundment.
The couple, originally from Houston, had plans to take their new truck and trailer lifestyle on a trip down the West Coast. Jared said he had always dreamed of living in Seattle because of its infamous ’90s grunge music scene, but now he’s tired of the rain and longs for the warm weather of Los Angeles.
“I hope the rain stops,” he said, “and I can fix this truck.”