In response to exorbitant rents, many assistants, craftspeople and working actors are adopting a transient lifestyle, some by choice, some less so: “It’s hard for me to say this because I don’t think of myself as in need of help, but right now I need help.”
Even by Los Angeles standards, Noelle spends a lot of time worrying about parking. A writers room production assistant for a major streamer and script reader for a premium cable network, Noelle wakes up at 6 a.m. on weekdays to secure a spot close to her jobs in West L.A. After work, she moves her white, unassuming Ford Transit to another spot, carefully chosen to be located in a non-residentially zoned area without nightly parking restrictions and far away from any schools, daycare facilities or parks. She is constantly rotating these “day spots” and “night spots,” as she calls them, so as not to annoy neighbors or attract too much attention. These days, Noelle jokes, she’s more worried about a cop knocking on her window than getting “murdered or attacked.”
Noelle, 25, who is using only her first name because she signed a no-publicity clause for one of her jobs, is one of the 15,748 Angelenos currently living in his or her vehicle, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Their ranks are growing amid a worsening income inequality and homelessness crisis: As of January 2018, 9,117 vehicles were being used as homes, up 600 from 2017.
The entertainment industry, one of the city’s biggest and most capricious employers, counts a number of car dwellers like Noelle among its workforce. Though the precise figure is unknown, it’s a small but visible population. Of the 45 or so people hosted each night by Safe Parking L.A. — an organization that launched in 2016 and opened its first facility this year providing guarded, secret lots for vehicle dwellers to sleep in — an actor and a couple of part-time production or lighting professionals usually show up, founder Scott Sale says. Though LAHSA does not survey professions in its annual Homeless Count, community engagement manager Jonathan Hans says entertainment-industry types are a familiar group: “Especially within our younger population, it’s not necessarily uncommon that a group of young kids came out [to L.A.] because somebody told them that they would get them a record deal and then they ended up living out of their van,” he says. Many now-well-known industry figures — Tiffany Haddish, Chris Pratt, Drew Carey, Kelly Clarkson — have said they lived in their car before rising to fame.