LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In an effort to address the homeless crisis, the city of Los Angeles has launched the Inside Safe program which guarantees housing first, then clears the city's most problematic tent encampments.
But the 2023 homeless count revealed tents make up 43% of homeless dwellings compared to vehicles, which make up 57%. Vehicle encampments which include RVs, vans and cars increased 82% from 2017 to 2023, but have proven difficult to clear.
"It's not just the beds. The bigger problem with the RV encampments is the fact that we don't have places to store them on an interim basis," Los Angeles City Council member Monica Rodriguez said. "It's not like a car that can be sold. These often don't have any value, so we have to facilitate with the haulers and the junk yards to be able to take this off of our hands."
But Council District 7, represented by Rodriguez, has found a way around that which includes providing incentives for the service providers conducting the outreach at RV encampments to help in the disposal of RVs.
In its first year, the district's RV-to-home program placed 94 people into interim and permanent supportive housing and disposed of 65 RVs. The program will soon be implemented citywide.
"We had been told that people were not going to accept housing," said Kim Olsen, the executive director of West Valley Homes Yes. "That people living in RVs, campers and trailers did not know they were homeless. That has not been our experience. They very much know they are unhoused and they very much want housing. Very often people are choosing these situations because they do not have a better choice."
West Valley Homes Yes led the outreach for the pilot program, which cleared RVs in Sylmar and the north San Fernando Valley.
Lyset and Trevor, who were on the streets for years, are now indoors because of the program and say they they're never going back.
"It's a struggle day by day. You've got to wake up and think what you're going to do that day," Lyset said. "How are you going to get food? How are you going to take a shower, brush your teeth, wash your face? It's kind of hard."
"There's a couple of times where I felt my life was in danger and a couple of instances arose where I felt if I didn't leave, I would have died on that street," Trevor said. "I had seen other people come out and try to offer help, but they just didn't seem genuine.
"Kim was very persistent and she made me comfortable enough to give her a chance."
Lyset suffers from coronary heart failure and says she was always sick living in her dilapidated RV. Trevor, who grew up in Sylmar, saw his brother and parents become homeless and ended up on the street. Although Trevor continued working as a carpenter while homeless, having enough money to pay rent in Los Angeles has been a struggle. That's all changed.
"I'm just happy that I have a stable place to be. That's one thing I never knew in my life, stability," Trevor said. "Things have only gotten better since I got off the street and they can only get better. I got my bank account full of money. I haven't had that ever. I'm excited to see what comes next, but definitely, I'm going to want to get a spot of my own."
"I feel good, and I feel like I've grown more as a person because I don't have to deal with the circumstances of I don't have a home," Lyset said.
In roughly 60 days, the RV-to-home program will be adopted by the entire city to address the growing problem of RV homelessness.