Editor’s note: On Sept. 19, Palo Alto joins many other cities in Silicon Valley in preventing people from legally living in their vehicles. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” 69-year-old Fred Smith talks about living in his RV after being a software engineer in Silicon Valley for nearly thirty years. Smith gives us a tour of his home.
By Fred Smith
It’s an ’85 Winnebago, Chieftain. And there’s clothes and books, and those are pictures of my wife.
We’re in the bedroom right now and it’s a decent sized queen bed, I guess you’d call it. Actually, it’s a better bed than a lot of people have.
Back in 2003, I was doing well, getting $145,000 a year. Then I got caught in the tail end of the dot-com crash and never recovered from that. Unemployment had ran out and I realized that I couldn’t afford to keep the apartment I had. Actually, I ended up living in my car with my cat for a couple weeks here in the alley behind Happy Donuts. You know, you got these seats that fold down, and you’re half in the trunk and half in the back seat.
I took what money I had and borrowed some money from a friend and bought an old RV. But living in a RV, call it stressful, because you’re always alert. You know, every once in a while you get woken up in the middle of the night by cops. If they chase me away from here, I’ll go there, if they chase me away from there, I’ll go there, then I’ll come back to the original place. There’s no place to go. And you check into affording housing, there isn’t much of anything. And the waiting… I’m on waiting lists.
I really don’t want to leave the whole area because my wife is buried in this area too.
The one magic wand I would like is for the city to provide some place where we could park our vehicles in peace. We’re being very law abiding. But we don’t want trouble. We know we’re living on the edge.
Listen to Fred Smith tell his story: