Living on Four Wheels in Los Angeles

By Sarah Le, Epoch Times

LOS ANGELES—Lisa Green was a successful financial analyst in Florida for 20 years until she had a spiritual awakening and moved out West.

She decided to leave her home, move into a van, and become an artist. She spends her days meditating, working part-time for a non-profit, and writing a book about her mystical experiences.

“I did choose [to live in a vehicle] by choice, but a lot of people don’t,” she said. 

She parks in Venice beach, a neighborhood on the coast that is notorious for its car-dwelling population.. 

Green’s choice of residence was not always legal. A Los Angeles city ordinance forbid people from living in their vehicles, and for many years, homeless advocates reported car-dwellers were being harassed by the police and forced to sleep on the street next to their cars to avoid being ticketed.. 

Lisa Green stands next to her brightly-painted van, where she’s lived for five years, in Venice, Calif. on Aug. 14. (Sarah Le/Epoch Times)

Green helped provide evidence of interactions between police and car-dwellers to change this law. In June of this year, a federal appeals court struck down that ordinance.

Green’s neighbor Rachel, who preferred not to use her last name, said her husband was one of the people who filed the lawsuit against the city. 

Like Green, Rachel had a career before she decided to live a more liberated lifestyle. She has a master’s degree in holistic health studies and used to own her own business.

“Now I do art,” she said. “I’m creative. I play music. I find ways that make my heart happy as opposed to stressing out my mind.”

Her and her husband own a total of three vehicles and four dogs, and make a living selling their art on the Venice boardwalk.

While living on four wheels is less stressful in some ways, it isn’t a carefree lifestyle, even now that it is legal.

Rachel and her husband used to be able to park in the lot overnight. Now they have to leave by midnight and find an overnight parking spot elsewhere in the city, a task she says is very difficult. Twice a week they have to go to an RV park to dispose of their waste, which costs $15. Every day at 6:00am, they pay to park in the lot next to the beach.

Rachel says in some ways she did choose this lifestyle, but she would welcome stable housing.

“This is more free, but there’s oppression associated with it,” she said.

Part of that oppression is the stigma of living in a vehicle. There are almost 5,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, and with rising housing prices outpacing inflation and salaries, the city is not providing enough affordable housing to meet the demand. This has made car dwelling a popular alternative.

“I would just welcome people to look at somebody that’s homeless, that’s poor sometimes, and just look at them in a different light,” said Green, who is a homeless advocate. “You don’t have to walk up and say, ‘Hey can I help you?’ But just realize it’s somebody’s mother or brother or sister or aunt, and they all have a story.”

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @dadasarahle