On the brink of homelessness, a couple struggles to leave Renton

How simple circumstances can add up, leaving ordinary people high and dry.

Most everything that Jared and Jennifer owned was contained in the thin walls of the camp trailer that was towed behind their broken down Ford F-350. A blue tarp covered the open hood of the truck and a small stool stood in front of the truck’s bumper, wet from the rain.

A muddy path had been trampled from the open hood of the car where the engine sat in disrepair to the side door of the camp trailer where the couple had been sleeping for several days.

Their truck and trailer was parked on the side of the street in a Renton neighborhood, just blocks away from the house where they had rented a room before they were asked to leave, only weeks before.

The rent they paid for the room was affordable, especially when compared to the sky-high rents across the Puget Sound region. To avoid having to pay rent that was much more expensive than what they were previously paying, they decided to buy a truck and trailer to be able to travel and to live more affordably.

Their ideal plan, however, was foiled when the truck Jared bought on Facebook marketplace broke down less than a month later, leaving them stranded in the very driveway they were essentially being kicked out of. Jared began working to fix the engine, which he said had a clogged oil cooler.

Stuck in the driveway of their previous landlords, the couple said they were closely watched and checked on by the homeowners because they obviously wanted the couple to get off their property and on their way, Jared said.

Eventually the homeowners had enough and the couple was forced to drag their situation a block down the street. That is where they remained, parked across the street from several houses that enjoyed a wonderful view of the Renton airport and Lake Washington.

Neighbors, seemingly concerned by the camper trailer parked across the street, came to check on the couple. Jared said he was told that they were mostly just making sure that the couple was not going to bring trouble to the neighborhood.

They said the neighbors were mostly nice, but frequent calls to the police about the couple’s vehicle might indicate other attitudes the neighbors may have had toward them. The couple said maybe some of the neighbors thought the trailer was “tainting their view.”

When police came to check on the couple and their vehicle, they explained their predicament. Jared said the officer whom he was put in touch with was initially nice, but now she seems only interested in getting their trailer off the street.

Under threats of towing and impounding their only shelter, the couple began to panic out of fear of becoming homeless.

Police marked the trailer windows with orange writing to indicate a derelict vehicle. The couple was told the vehicle would be treated as though it was abandoned, despite them living in it.

They said they were told by police to get out of town and leave Renton. It was recommended that they go to Seattle. Jared said he told a police officer that if they towed the truck and trailer that they “would really be stuck in [their] town.”

Getting towed

Sgt. Steven Morris with the Renton Police Department said if a vehicle is under 12,000 pounds gross weight and can be legally parked on the street — meaning not blocking mailbox, driveways, etc. — it cannot be in the same spot for more than 72 hours.

When asked if the department would tow a vehicle even if it meant rendering someone homeless, Morris said it is a “very complex issue and is handled in a case by case manner as tow companies will not tow a vehicle if someone is inside it at the time.”

According to a report from The Seattle Times, Seattle — where the couple was reportedly told to go — is facing its own problem with recreational vehicle parking amid the homelessness crisis as it recently announced increased RV parking enforcement. According to the report, the 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 significant electricity, Jared and Jennifer were informed by police that they would have until the next day to remove their vehicle and trailer or have them be subject to tow and impound.

The couple sat together in the trailer on the morning of the day they were told their trailer could be towed. Jared nervously peered through the blinds of the trailer window, checking to see if police had arrived with a tow truck. Jennifer wondered what would happen if she locked herself and all the tires of the trailer inside, she wondered if police would be deterred or if they would force entry into their only shelter.

Jared mentioned a friend of theirs who had been camping at a homeless encampment behind a Home Depot in Seattle. Jennifer asked if they might end up camping there. Jared shot down the idea, citing the amount of theft.

He said at the encampment people will pick through one’s 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. She also noted the lack of understanding from their former landlords, their neighbors and the police.

“I really don’t appreciate being treated with such disdain,” Jennifer said. “I don’t believe people give it a second thought how they make others feel by looking down on us because of circumstances beyond our control.”

The couple told police that they were able to pay — with the help of Jared’s father — to get their truck and trailer moved to a new location so they could avoid becoming homeless by way of 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 90’s Grunge-music scene, but now he has grown tired of the rain and has a longing for the warm weather of Los Angeles.

“Hopefully the rain will stop,” he said, “and I can get this truck fixed.”