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HomeOpinionEditorialsWhy Car Camping Should Not Be Permitted In Newberg

Why Car Camping Should Not Be Permitted In Newberg

The City of Newberg is considering permitting car camping within city limits. Here's why it is a terrible idea.

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On June 21st the City of Newberg is going to discuss permitting car camping in city limits. There is an actual page on the City website making this announcement, although it is hidden in that it’s not been linked to by the front website content. It would appear the City is trying to quietly make changes to the local ordinances to permit car camping without most residents realizing it.

This is a copy of the page at the time of drafting this editorial,

I believe that car camping should not be legally permitted in Newberg.

In this editorial I am going to relate my past personal experience with car camping so that others may understand better why I am so opposed to this ordinance.

What is Car Camping And Its Forms?

Car camping is the act of sleeping in a car, usually in public places such as parking lots or near public parks. It can be a temporary action engaged in, historically most frequently by travelers covering long distances. Many people car camp when traveling across state lines, spending a night in their car at a public rest stop so as to avoid having to pay a motel fee or when nearby motels have no vacancy. Most frequently when I travel around the country by car alone I do this.

Car camping can also be engaged in while attempting to save money when moving or changing homes. For example, I have car camped for several weeks during the time I ended my apartment lease and purchased a home outside Austin, Texas, as there was a few weeks between each event.

In another instance I car camped when I consulted for companies in extremely expensive cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, because my goal was to save up money for creating a new business and these cities have insanely high rent rates.

I have also engaged in a form of car camping as part of what is called a ‘digital nomad lifestyle’, where I purchased a camper van, installed solar panels on it and fixed it up so that I could travel around the country at my leisure while doing consulting work electronically over the internet. I lived this “van life” adventure for nearly a year.

In past years I have also spent some time living in small RVs, traveling around the country. I did this after I exited from a position as a vice president at a large independent film studio in Los Angeles area, because I wanted to take a break and re-assess my life. While traveling I also frequently slept in the RV in parking lots and other public areas, so as to avoid expensive RV park lot fees.

In summary, I have a tremendous amount of experience with “car camping” and I can speak on the topic with a great deal of authority due to my experience. Based on that experience I can say with certainty that what I did while car camping as a “digital nomad” is atypical and extremely rare, and that the overwhelming majority of people who car camp are vagrant drug users with significant mental health issues, and that when they are legally permitted to car camp they negatively impact the communities they camp in.

Why Legalized Car Camping Is A Stupid Thing to Do

When car camping is not legal in an area, those who seek to do so must engage in a form known as “stealth camping”. Stealth camping is any kind of camping in an urban area where the goal of the camper is to be undetected by others. While many stealth campers use tents and hammocks to sleep in wooded areas, such as parks and tree lines, the easiest way to stealth camp is to use a vehicle. For example, the vehicle I stealth camped in as a digital nomad, a camper van, had originally been purchased by me to use as a promotional vehicle for taking to conventions and it had been wrapped with corporate branding and logo. To the average person who didn’t know about my business, it appeared to be a work vehicle and so when people looked at it they assumed I had a legitimate purpose for parking overnight in shopping mall plazas, as it could have belonged to a local service provider.

The camper van I stealth camped in.

The most important thing about stealth camping is that you engage in “leave no trace” ethics while camping in an urban area; you don’t create problems for local residents, such as being noisy, dumping waste onto the road or otherwise being a nuisance. You also don’t create an atmosphere in the neighborhood that would cause property values to decrease; it’s not intended that you live in a specific area night after night, but that you only camp in an area at night and then leave.

You don’t do something like, for example, camp a huge RV in a McDonalds parking lot all night right next to the drive-thru and then panhandle in the drive-thru lane, begging for money. That would result in the McDonalds staff reporting you to the police for trespassing, and once the police are aware you are car camping they will ticket you and potentially impound your vehicle.

Consequently, people who stealth camp do not engage in panhandling, because that alerts people that you are camping in the area. People will report you to the businesses, and the businesses will call the police and report you for trespassing. Furthermore, in my experience, many of the people who stealth camp are not doing so because they lack resources to care for themselves but instead because it is either a cheap way to travel around or because they are attempting to save money for some specific goal (such as in my case, starting a new company).

While I personally believe that a person should leave no trace when car camping because it is ethical and considerate of others, I would say the primary reason people stealth camp is because urban camping is illegal and they do not wish to be caught. When car camping is legal there is no longer any incentive to leave no trace and so they leave a lot of traces and lose any concern for how their lifestyle may impact others.

Consequently, what happens to cities that permit car camping is that they attract large numbers of vagrant drug users who only care about themselves and getting their next fix, and they engage in panhandling and thievery in order to fund their drug addictions.

This is critical for the average person to understand; it takes a great deal of desperation for the average person to engage in something like panhandling. It requires not caring how others perceive you. This kind of desperation is most commonly found in those who are drug addicts, whose addictions are creating the desperation. While some might say they are hungry, if they were simply hungry they would ask for food. When panhandling, drug addicts do not ask for food and they ask for money so they can purchase drugs. When people offer them work, they turn that down as well, because they know they can easily garner sympathy from the average person unfamiliar with the minute details of a vagrant drug user’s lifestyle. There are lots of people who pity vagrants who panhandle, and give them money thinking it will help them eat or get a motel room.

The reality is that there is so much food in our country that it is easy to get a free meal, every day, if you want to. There are state, county and even city food drive programs — supermarkets frequently donate food items to banks that are nearing expiration dates so as to collect tax incentives. There are numerous church groups that do the same thing. There has been numerous times in my life that I have used these services, and I have done so in many states, even those I was simply traveling through. There are even restaurants such as McDonalds that give local groups gift certificates to distribute to homeless people to reap these tax incentives.

While the average person associates food banks with canned foods, the majority of the food distributed by food banks is, in my experience, stuff that came from local grocery stores like fresh produce, dry goods like rice and spaghettis, baked breads (even entire cakes) and even frozen chickens and turkeys. If you’re not a picky eater you can eat rather well if you’re willing to spend an hour of your day waiting in line at a food bank every two weeks.

It is pretty much impossible to starve in the United States of America. Nobody needs to panhandle to obtain food. The reason for panhandling is to obtain money for drugs, and that is the reality of the situation.

As I mentioned before, I have a tremendous amount of experience car camping all over the country. In every area I car camped, there was frequently others doing so as well. Many of them did not engage in “stealth camping” and it was blatantly obvious they were drug abusers, because they would panhandle during the day by stop signs in the shopping mall plazas, then return to their derelict vehicle. I would watch drug dealers drive into the parking lots at night when most stores had closed, and the lines of local vagrants form as the dealers sold drugs without ever leaving their car. And then I would get to listen to some of the ones nearest my vehicle tweak out all night. I would try to leave the area if I could find somewhere else to park, but frequently these lots were the only place available and so I would stay.

So let me make it crystal clear: I am totally unconvinced by the sob stories of those who panhandle, who say they are just having a hard time, have some kind of medical emergency, or anything of the nature. I have heard these stories hundreds of times all across the country. I have never seen a single one of these people not later that same night tweak out in their vehicle. I have witnessed this play out hundreds of times, and I feel strongly if you disagree then you should go take your own car and camp near these people yourself, so you can see the reality of the situation is exactly as I describe it to you.

Panhandlers do not beg for money to buy food. They use it to buy drugs. If they want food then they go to the food banks. That is how the lifestyle of the vagrant drug user is, and anyone who works for nonprofits that provide “services” to these vagrants that claims otherwise is either gullible or lying. Again, if you think I am wrong go spend a night near these car camping vagrants yourself. Seeing is believing.

Another factor I don’t see often discussed by “experts” at nonprofits but which I have most certainly witnessed on numerous occasions in areas I stealth camped for weeks at a time, is that drug addicts do not often maintain their vehicles. When the vehicle becomes so derelict it can no longer drive, local businesses realize the vehicle has not moved in some time and get it towed away out of their lot. This leaves the vagrant without shelter, but in the same area they were panhandling and/or engaging in night time thievery. They tend to start living in tents or even constructing a shanty from salvage they find.

Given my experience, I have also interacted with workers for various nonprofits, as they have sometimes confused me for being one of these addicts given my camping. While I was never bothered while living in the camper van because it “passed” successfully, when I have car camped in other vehicles I have had workers knock on my window in the morning asking me to do polls or if I needed needles, food or clothing. I have a generally poor opinion of these employees — my interactions have led me to believe most of them want to find vagrants to provide services to in order to show proof that their services are needed, so they can keep their jobs. If there are no vagrants for them to provide services to then the grant money will not be justifiable. Consequently these groups have a financial incentive for vagrancy to flourish if they want to keep the grant money rolling in. Their employees ignore the drug dealers and the most vulnerable in the worst of crisis, and I think this constant ignoring of the real problem results in their workers developing a callous attitude while simultaneously claiming to others they are virtuous for “helping” people. This lets them downplay the fact they are not actually helping stop homelessness but instead contributing to it through subsidization of the lifestyle of addicts.

I do not say this merely out of speculation. I have on numerous occasions been told when I declined services and explained my reasons for car camping wasn’t because I was poor but to save on rent, that if I would just put my name down on a sheet with my SSN it would help them out with getting more grant money and help the worker meet some kind of performance review quota.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the drug addict vagrants and the non-profit workers who provide services to them; neither can thrive without the other. This is well understood by both sides but is poorly understood by the general public. There may be some well meaning people who work for these nonprofits but good intentions are not real solutions. There is fraud that occurs in these groups and I do not like them.

The harsh reality is that the United States is experiencing a mental health crisis caused by an ever increasing lax attitude toward recreational drug usage and those who profit from this crisis, and none of this genuinely helps those experiencing the addictions. These lax policies enable drug dealers to live a lavish lifestyle of luxury by profiting from the poisoning of the vulnerable, and it leads to the completely avoidable premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of people every year who die from the consequences of these addictions. It leads to a spike in foster children in the programs, who are taken from the care of their addict parents and delivered into the hands of strangers, some of whom abuse them. It is not merciful to relax laws against drug usage and distribution; it is instead an act that demonstrates a callous disregard for the value of human life. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the people who believe drugs like meth, cocaine and all kinds of psychedelic should be legalized are also the same people who believe there should be no restrictions on abortions, or that the death penalty should be outlawed even in cases of murder and violent rape of children. The slippery slope of moral relativism has corrupted their moral compass and led to justifications for things that are blatantly wrong if you value the sanctity of human life. Those who violate that sanctity must be punished if you wish to reinforce that sanctity.

What Permitting Urban Camping Results in

These are some other extremely negative impacts on the local communities that I have seen repeatedly happen in areas where large amounts of drug addicted vagrants are invited to openly camp in public areas,

  • Restaurants, gas stations and even supermarkets stop allowing customers to use their bathrooms. This is because vagrant addicts shoot up drugs in the bathroom stalls using needles, a location chosen because they can have access to water to clean themselves and they get blood all over the place (frequently happens as their blood vessels weaken and collapse from the repeated injections they do, often while high and missing their marks). The addicts also tend to tweak out inside the stalls, which often causes them to destroy the bathroom furnishings. Addicts also OD frequently in the bathrooms as well, and on one occasion I actually walked in an addict who died in a supermarket bathroom stall.
  • Public bathrooms in parks are frequently closed permanently because parks cannot keep up with the cost of maintenance on these bathrooms as a result of the daily destruction to their facilities.
  • In addition to transforming into tent cities, public parks also become litter grounds for spent needles, and this especially occurs when there are free needle and needle exchange programs also in the cities. I believe this happens for an obvious reason; when you’re a drug addicted vagrant you lose track of your possessions all the time, because you’re walking around in a daze during your high. That includes the needle that you stuck into your arm to get high in the first place.
  • Break ins to vehicles skyrocket, as do break ins to businesses at night. The primary incentive for the break ins is to steal electronics which can be resold — while many pawn shops won’t accept goods from people that are very obviously vagrants because they realize they are stolen, this doesn’t prevent vagrants from selling the items using apps like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or even eBay. Pretty much all vagrants have smart phones, frequently for free due to programs that provide them one thinking it will make it easier for them to get emergency services or find a job. Also, anything that could be sold as scrap, such as copper wiring, becomes vandalized to steal the metal.
  • Vacation homes and abandoned warehouses are frequently broken into and squatted in, and all copper wiring (such as used in heating systems) are torn out and sold off for scrap to fund their drug addictions.
  • Due to the large number of addicts, gangs in the area become more powerful and more competitive. On several occasions while car camping I witnessed shootings in the areas I was camping and those shootings were obviously between rival gangs competing for the area, because they involved groups of men.
  • As pyromania is a common psychological disorder that manifests from long term drug abuse, arsons become commonplace occurrences throughout the area. You also have buildings burn down because during cold nights vagrants will start fires inside of abandoned buildings or other kinds of structures like storage sheds. Vagrants who form camps will also burn another’s tent or shanty shelter during disagreements within their group.

You don’t have to take my word that this stuff occurs. Just go spend a few nights car camping anywhere in Portland that you see lots of car camping or tent cities. Try to use the local park bathrooms, try to use one at the gas stations or even supermarket. Visit the parks and see the needles scattered everywhere yourself.

Newberg just had an arson that displaced the employees of DCI. While unusual for Newberg, this kind of arson is more frequent occurrence in Portland.

On the City website page discussing car camping, the City is claiming that “Faith based organizations” want to permit car camping on their lots. The problem I see with this is most churches have schools and daycares, or are near them. It’s not safe for kids to be in such close proximity to severely mentally ill people and the items they discard, like spent needles. Many churches are also in suburban neighborhoods too. Just because they are a church doesn’t mean they should have free license to attract a bunch of vagrant drug users to Newberg.

If the City of Newberg wants to do something to help homeless drug addicts then it should demand the State of Oregon build inpatient drug treatment facilities as it was supposed to do with all of the marijuana tax money. It should demand the State enact harsher penalties for drug dealers and make it easier to commit the severely mentally disturbed addicts into long-term inpatient facilities to get them off the streets and prevent their continued exploitation by criminal drug dealers. Permitting car camping did not improve the plight of vagrants in Portland nor did it benefit the residents of Portland to have large parts of their city transform into a shanty town. All that the permitting of urban camping did is escalate the problem. There will be no different outcome if urban camping is permitted in Newberg, and it will result in the same thing repeating here in Newberg, just as it has in every other city in America where urban camping becomes permitted under a false pretense of “helping” people.

This isn’t hard to understand. If a City does not permit car camping, addicts have to at least engage in stealth camping to avoid detection, which means not doing things that bring attention like panhandling or thievery. If it is permitted all the gloves come off and they setup camps without restriction.

Addicts should check themselves into drug treatment facilities and get off the drugs. Those who have developed severe mental illnesses need to be taken to an inpatient facility for long term treatment and care. Those who profit by poisoning others should go to jail for decades. If you want to solve the homeless crisis, those are the only three things that will solve it. Everything else is a non-solution and worsens the problem.

Legalizing Car Camping is Unnecessary

To be crystal clear; people such as myself, who car camped while traveling or to save money and otherwise had reliable income, do not need car camping to be legal. These people do not stay in an area long-term and cause inconveniences for others, and consequently do not get reported to police for car camping.

The same cannot be said of drug addict vagrants. None of these people need to live in church parking lots and it is not going to help them overcome their deep rooted problems. I don’t care what the nonprofits who have a bias resulting from their financial incentives (grant money) claim about how successful their programs are, because if they actually reduced homelessness in any meaningful way then Portland wouldn’t have an ongoing homeless crisis. The City spends over a billion a year on these programs and the problem just keeps getting worse.

The only way to get these people off the streets is to literally get them off the streets, and that means inpatient programs. Out patient services do not work, because they still have contact with the drug dealers. States like Oregon and cities like Portland waste money primarily on out patient programs and non-profits who subsidize the lifestyle of the addicts, and consequently the problem grows instead of shrinking.

Oregon cities like Portland and Newberg need new leadership who have common sense and are genuinely interested in putting all of these nonprofits out of business by implementing real solutions to the mental health crisis in our communities. Permitting car camping is only going to create new customers for these nonprofits to justify acquiring more grant money, and it is not to actually help anyone in need, because they don’t. Enabling drug addiction lifestyles is not help.

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Carey Martell
Carey Martell
Publisher and editor for Yamhill Advocate. Digital media entrepreneur. Born and raised in Newberg, Oregon. US Army Veteran.


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Larry warshauer

Great explanation why making car camping legal is a terrible idea Thanks for the article.


Wow, this author seems not to understand that they themselves have been homeless. That’s what it means to live in a van. Many other people who are homeless also have jobs, just like you did. Somehow you are above them and do not qualify as a “vagrant”. So. Completely. Offensive. You’ve clearly been lucky not to have anyone close to you experience addiction or overdose in order to blanketly paint them as bad people. And then to deny that statistics exist on this, bash non-profits that are trying to combat the issue, and somehow living in a van makes you an expert on the unhoused. You are the nastiest kind of NIMBY there is. Shame.
My guess is that you would also be against affordable housing that would get folks off the street near you. Ironic and dumb.

Betty Eubanks

Car Camping in Newberg is a bad idea. It’s not fair to the citizens who have worked hard to buy a home. We all have sacrificed to save money to buy a home. We didn’t buy drugs! Instead, we kept our eye on the prize and saved so we could have a family and a future. The last thing I want to do is walk out in my front yard and see garbage thrown all about needles and drugged up people sitting there. It’s not fair. The people who didn’t raise their kids right should take them back in. It’s not society’s problem. It’s Oregon who caused this problem by legalizing drugs! Criminalize Drugs. Unsafe for the children of Newberg to have to walk by homeless (by choice) people to go to the corner market. No! I will be talking to all my neighbors to make sure they know what’s going on in Newberg and that we will be treated like second class citizens if we let this happen. We will look just like Portland if this is allowed to happen. It is a very bad idea.

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