For some of GJ’s homeless, RVs provide a welcome respite

Vacation home sweet home

CHUCK AND NANCY BENNETT stand in their “Minnie Winnie” RV in Grand Junction.

Ahh, the life of the open road.

Getting the motor home out of the driveway and onto the road is what many seniors do for fun, but some locals use recreational vehicles not for touring the country, but for daily living.

Chuck Bennett, 45, his wife Nancy Bennett, 62, and their little dog Eddie have been living in their donated 1976 “Minnie Winnie” for the past couple years.

“This one is a little drafty, and the heater doesn’t work,” Nancy said.

For the past month, the Bennetts, recently from Santa Barbara, Calif., have made their home on the side streets of Grand Junction.

“We just kind of move around. If someone asks us to leave, we leave,” Chuck said. “We don’t want no trouble.”

With just a six-gallon water tank on board, they try to park near service stations to make use of the restrooms. Last week, their dirty white RV, with a tan stripe along both sides, sat on the corner of First Street and White Avenue in the parking lot of a gas station, a block away from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

“We thought this would be the greatest and safest place in the whole world with the sheriff’s office right
there. They haven’t bothered us here at all,” Chuck said. “But there sure is a lot of traffic around here.”

The two say they fell on hard times after Chuck had a seizure and lost his job as a truck driver. The Georgia home they had been living in was so infested with mold they were sleeping every night in the Minnie Winnie. The couple now has no bills, except for the cost of feeding their eight-miles-to-the-gallon home and a cell phone, which Chuck occasionally watches television on.

To make a little cash, they make inexpensive trinkets: Keychains are $3, while a necklace and earring set is $10.

“A lot of people have it harder than us,” Nancy said.

Mike Henschel, 51, owner of a white and blue-striped, 1977 Dodge El Dorado RV, has it harder than the Bennetts.

“I was homeless up until I got that,” said Henschel, who used to work as a dishwasher in Palisade until a few months ago. “I lost my wife here a while back, 20 years married, and went through a depressing state for a bit.”

Prior to buying the RV for $500, a price that bought a bed, kitchen and steering wheel, Henschel and his 19-year-old daughter used to live down by the Colorado River in a homeless camp.

With his daughter now in jail, Henschel parks his vehicle south of the railroad tracks between Sixth and Seventh streets overnight. He said the location is good. It allows him easy access to the buses and services for the homeless.

“I try to move it almost daily so I don’t get hassled by the cops,” he said. “They came up on me one night, just kind of wanted to know what I was doing.”

Henschel, who has lived in the Grand Valley for the past 18 years, said he is trying to get work and wants to stay in the area. But until he lands a job and is able to save up some money for an apartment, his address will continue to be curbside.

“I ain’t got family nowhere, and I really don’t have a desire to go venturing until my daughter gets married.

Right now, being homeless and without money, this here is a good place to be,” he said.


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