MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX 5) — In an effort to win over hearts and minds of Mountain View residents, some of the city’s residents who live in their vehicles began organizing and made themselves known Sunday at a meet-and-greet potluck picnic.

The Mountain View Vehicle Residents, a group formed back in December, organized Sunday’s event at Rengstorff Park with the hopes of dispelling myths about the hundreds of people who live on the city’s streets in their vehicles and RVs.

“The misconceptions are that we’re drug dealers, or we’re jobless, or we’re lazy, or we’re criminals, or there’s prostitutes and stuff like that,” said Francisco Vargas, one of the group’s steering committee members.

Vargas himself has lived in an RV for the past two years, after his previous landlord renovated the apartment and increased the monthly rent by $1,000. Vargas is a college student who also works full time. He says the event was open to everyone, as a way to humanize the housing crisis.

“Get to know that there’s families, students, kids, people with disabilities, it helps people understand who we are. And it puts a human face on us,” said Vargas.

The last time the city counted back in December, more than 300 RVs were parked along the roads of Mountain View. Many of the occupants have jobs or fixed incomes, but it’s not nearly enough to afford to the median rent of $3,200 a month for a one bedroom.

Dave Bengel says living in an RV as he does is a last chance at survival for many.

“And gives the people on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder a chance to start climbing up,” said Bengel.

Earlier this month, the Mountain View City Council voted not to ban RVs. But the city is still grappling with ways on how to manage the deluge, including a government sanctioned overnight parking area.

Chris Cummins is a Navy vet, who also lives in an RV, but has tools and is looking for work.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re poor, but some of us are striving to at least get by. And I would endeavor to please allow us to live respectfully amongst you,” said Cummins.

Dave Offen and Gail Nyhan are longtime homeowners in Mountain View and saw the flyer for the picnic. They came out to meet some vehicle dwellers for the first time.

“They’re people just like me and you. I think it helps to just feel comfortable that we’re all the same,” said Nyhan.

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