The city has encouraged people living in RVs to pursue other housing programs, such as shelters and secure parking, city-sanctioned parking lots that also offer services. Ramirez Vasquez looked at some of them but found they didn’t work for her and her husband.
There are shelters, but she heard they had curfews. Her husband works late at a nearby McDonald’s and does not come home until 11 p.m. or midnight. She has also tried applying for apartments, but many require a credit check and other documentation. “If you don’t have it, they won’t accept your application, will they?” she asked.
She hopes the city will let her stay on Crisanto Avenue. This street has become his home, his neighborhood. Difficult for her to do without.
Hector “Max” Hernandez, 70, worked as a chef at a fancy Italian restaurant in Palo Alto for 18 years. Before the pandemic began, he lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Mountain View, but his landlord slowly increased his rent from $1,500 to $2,000 a month. Eventually, her owner demanded $2,500. His restaurant closed during the pandemic and he lost his job. He was forced to move and buy an RV, which he now parks near Ramirez Vasquez on Crisanto Avenue.
“It’s not a palace, but it’s a place I call home,” he said in Spanish. “There’s a saying in Italian that when life gives you lemons, make limoncello. I am not homeless. I have a place to sleep.
Hernandez is originally from the beach town of Mazatlán, Mexico, and owns a three-bedroom home there, but moved to the United States to serve as a Marine and earn enough money to support his family. Today, he is divorced and has family across the country; her daughter grew up and works in Japan. He had planned to work for a few more years while the trial unfolded, but he is tired of the uncertainty about whether he will be able to stay on Crisanto Avenue.
“I keep thinking, well, Max, you have a choice,” he said. “Either you can keep doing this or go back [to Mexico] and live happily ever after, I hope.
He plans to return to Mexico in December and finally retire. “I’m going to eat big shrimp, seafood and fish and drink Pacifico beer,” he said. “That’s my plan.”
Continental Circle, a 15-minute drive from Crisanto Avenue, is also densely packed with more than 30 RVs. On one side are apartment buildings and on the other is the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), which houses doctors’ offices. It’s what has kept Harry Epstein, 72, parked here for the past 15 years.
Epstein began to fall chronically ill in his 30s and was unable to hold steady employment. He has a number of health issues, but his chronic fatigue affects him the most.