Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Finding a Parking Place

Choosing the right parking place is an essential survival skill. Choosing the wrong one will draw the attention of residents, business owners, and police, and you will be moved on early. There is enough work involved in setting up for the night that moving on costs you at least an hour, and it is an unpleasant hour, one in which you have to listen to a self righteous jerk with a badge and a stick tell you how you ought to be living.

Don't get me wrong. I like police when they're chasing criminals. Somehow, though, they become something different when they are preventing me from attending to my most basic biological needs. Somehow, when they are standing between me and sleep they seem less than heroic.

A good parking space is difficult to find. It needs to be isolated, but your car can't stand out. It needs to be near other cars, but away from the prying eyes of property owners and tenants. It needs to be well lit, and yet your car should be unnoticable. Ideally your spot should be shaded from the morning sun. Such places exist, but usually you accept some flaws.

Residential Areas
A residential area is never ideal, but it is the most reliable supplier of an acceptable spot. The advantage, your car never looks out of place. If police cruise by they won't be wondering what a car is doing parked there. The disadvantage, lots of eyes. You want to park so that you are not in front of anyone's front door. Along a fenceline is good, particularly a tall fenceline. That shelters you from view on one side. Best is a place just on the cusp between a residential and a commercial zone. You want to be removed from the houses, so the residents don't notice or care about you, but you want the car to look natural in the place you've parked.

It is best to be under a streetlamp. A well lit area allows you to have the dome light on in the car without light shining out through your car cover, so you can read or write without fear. Light also deters thieves. Darkness has no real advantages. It may allow you to get into the car unobserved more easily, but this is really trading a full nighttime of increased danger for a few seconds of lower exposure. You can find the right moment to enter the car in the bright light.

Business Areas and Parking Lots

First let's clear one thing up, paying for parking is unnecessary and wasteful, so if you are thinking of one of those pay to park parking structures, think some more. Pay parking lots are regularly patrolled by three kinds of people you'd like to avoid, cops, security guards, and thieves. It is way too high profile, and frequently they are locked overnight. You don't ever want to be locked in anywhere. The overriding quality you are looking for in a parking place is flexibility on entrance and exit.

Don't park where traffic will prevent you from getting into or out of your car safely. Don't park on busy streets. On those few occasions when I did park on a busy street I couldn't shake the fear that someone might sideswipe my parked car. It happens. You don't want it to happen while you are in the vehicle.

Don't park where people will be arriving in large numbers at certain times of day or night because it will make it harder for you to get out unobserved.

Never park near a grade school or a high school. People take child safety very seriously, and rightly or wrongly the homeless are going to be perceived as a threat.

Most of the time supermarket or department store parking lots are no good. Your vehicle sticks out in an empty lot. Walmart, though, allows RV's to park overnight in their lots. I'm told that some Walmarts even have utility hookups for the RV's. I have never tried this, because I was unaware of the Walmart policy, but where RV's go will probably be safe for you in a car. I would park near any RV's that were there ahead of me, and I wouldn't concern myself with hiding my car living ways from their owners. This is one of those exceptional situations where you can relax a little.

Hotel and motel parking lots will do in a pinch. This is a good choice if for some reason you've lost your car cover. The cops won't bother you and a lot of hotels and motels will tolerate you. When approached by hotel staff, just tell them you are only looking for a place to sleep that night. Most of the time they will look the other way.

Service stations are pretty good for a one night stint also, especially those that think of themselves as a freeway rest stop. You can generally sleep till morning without anyone disturbing you.

Gathering Places
RV's and campers and truckers tend to find lonely stretches of road and congregate. These can often be found near beaches, near lakes, just off the highway, and in other more or less remote places. Where you find such a congregation, you can park with safety. Watch the crowd. It knows more than individuals do. The favorite in a horse race wins about 33% of the time, but the very best handicappers in the world pick the winner 17% of the time. Crowds know. These are places that are ignored by law enforcement, yet offer no particular temptations to criminals.

Campgrounds
Yeah, campgrounds work, I suppose. Lots of people use them. Personally I hate camping. It's cold. In a car, you are well above the ground. In a tent you are on the ground, and even with a pad it's a powerful heat sink. In a car, the wind can't touch you. The wind will take your tent and put it in the next county. Your car is impervious to the rain. Your tent keeps some of the rain out, I guess, unless, of course, you pitched it in a dry creek bed. Yeah. You want to camp? Camp. It isn't for me.

Many campgrounds even require that you pay for all this luxury.

Campgrounds are also separated from all the places you do business, usually by quite a distance. Cold, uncomfortable, often at a cost of money, and in an inconvenient location, well, they must have something to recommend them, but I am having trouble thinking what it is. You are still exposed, even moreso really. Now instead of just thieves and cops you've got paranoid marijuana growers, bears, mountain lions, and the occasional (though admittedly very rare) serial killer to worry about. On the plus side, you can have a fire, but you will probably have to have brought some wood. In my experience, wood that will burn easily is rare at a campground.

Rest Stops
Freeway rest stops are good, but they are crowded, the restrooms are unsanitary, and they have posted rules about how long you can be there. In California the rule is usually six hours, because some bureaucrat thought it would be funny to make sure no one got a full night's sleep. Irony creeps in everywhere, even at rest stops.

The good news is no one has ever enforced the time limit on me. I haven't used them a lot, but when I have, I've usually been there eight or ten hours without a problem.

Rotate Your Sites
It is a good idea to have three to ten good parking places scouted out, and rotate from one to the next. It is a bad idea to park in the same place three nights in a row. You should scatter your sites through several neighboring cities if you are in a big county like Los Angeles, so that you don't get too well known to one police department. Speaking of that, county land is often less patrolled or controlled than city land is. If you know of a group of streets that have no city claims to them, check those out for good places to park.

It's a bad idea to have a regular pattern, like always being in the same place on Tuesdays. Think about it. You might have been observed, and a complaint may have been made, but the police failed to catch you. If the complaint contains an observation of a pattern, they'll get you on the next cycle, the next Tuesday. Sound paranoid? Police have told me they were waiting for me.

If you are homeless long enough, you will break most of these rules from time to time. That's fine. Sometimes there will be some advantage, some exception to the rule. Sometimes you will just be too tired or too lazy to do things right. Sometimes you will pay a price for that, but that is part of this. Some things you just have to learn the hard way.

Be alert. Choose parking carefully. Stay safe.

97 Comments:

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Marke said...

Absolutely! Keep 'em coming! Out of the last five or so posts, this is the one I've been waiting to read. It's back to that format of the original posts ... the "this is how you do this" type of instructive post. That's what I come here every day to check up on.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Marke said...

Anyway, why do you say you're getting zero feedback? I see comments on every single post ... an average of 4.5 comments per post, actually. I realize some of these are you, but hey, people are reading and people are talking!

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I suppose I exagerrated for effect. I got about 300 unique hits yesterday, but no comments. I like hearing from you all.

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger hotness said...

I've found your series very interesting, it reminds me of travels with Lisbeth.

You've been writing good stuff, some things I'd like to hear more about as well:
- Employment and keeping a job
- Camping (why not do it more?)
- Why government programs /charities work (or don't)
- Your thoughts on panhandling

 
At 12:44 PM, Blogger Gudlyf said...

I just discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago, and I think it's one of the most interesting of the blogs I frequently read. You definitely know how to write and keep things to the point while at the same time adding in some of your own experiences.

I too would like to see more information on your thoughts on camping out -- why not get a nice tent and live on a campground? I know of whole families who live on campgrounds the entire summer for vacation, and as long as you keep clean you should never stick out.

Also, what are your thoughts on "party crashing" -- happening by free meals at large weddings or wakes where there are many people hardly anyone knows?

I imagine most homeless people don't regularly have access to the internet and may never know of your writings, even if you publish them in book form. How would you get your word out to those who could desperately use your help?

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger T. Bradley Dean said...

Yeah, keep it coming. Very thought provoking.

You've got 51 people reading at Bloglines:

http://www.bloglines.com/userdir?siteid=671314

 
At 1:50 PM, Blogger Dean said...

What do you think about the Walmart parking lots? They are very friendly towards campers, are well lit, have toilet facilities and you can usually find some hot food for under $2.

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger zovirl said...

RSS aggregators are a great way to make sure I don't miss any articles, but obviously don't make it easy to leave feedback :)

I agree with Marke's comment, I love your "how to" articles. Please keep writing!

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger Ethan32 said...

Hey, I love all the "How to..." articles too. It's a whole lot of really neat information that I hope never to need. But I really get a lot out of the philisophical essays as well. Your take on homelessness is unlike anyone's that I have ever heard, and I think that anyone who listens to you and hears you will benefit from your thoughts whether or not they agree with you. I never considered an upside to homelessness, but after reading your blog I recognize that my mortgage and associated house-dwelling expenses are a chain around my ankle to the tune of about 60 hours a week. I am not going to throw off my clothes and live naked in the woods with this epiphany, I can't, I have a family and responsibilities and we have all come to the conclusion that we like our roof. But I can look at homelessness and the homeless with a new perspective because of your ideas. Please keep both types of essays coming. Perhaps you could set up a "Practical Homelessness" table of contents and a "Homeless Philosophy" table of contents. Both are important.

 
At 12:24 AM, Blogger c said...

I do love this page. I've never been homeless (unless you want to count being snowed in at an airport for around 24 hours) but it does give an interesting perspective on things.

Your talk on parking made me think a good article would be on the selection of a vehicle. The reason I say this is because your articles made me think about one of my favourite automobiles: my ten year old Jeep Grand Cherokee and how well it would work as a mobile dwelling.

First of all, its not expensive to purchase, especially if you're employed. Most lots around here have 94-95 Jeep Grand Cherokees at around 4k. The rear seat folds down with just about enough space for someone or two to lie down comfortably. The rear windows are tinted so reduces the likelihood of being seen. With a soft pad and maybe a sleeping bag, you could be quite comfortable. There are even relatively inexpensive car camping kits which fit over the back door, which would allow you to blend in when parking in camping sites.

The jeep would also allow you to pick more remote sites for hiding out. Where I live, in Utah, even in the urban areas, you're no more than 30 minutes away from mountainous wilderness where you can be alone and secure. And since camping is common here, no one is going to think twice about a jeep with a camping kit. If you're in the LA area, I know that makes the remote areas even further away, but I would think they are close enough to be a semi-decent option.

Plus, with the jeep, there's quite a bit of room for storage so you could literally have your house on your back. I've seen inexpensive portable toilets and shower kits which would extend the idea of the jeep as a portable house.

I'm not trying to be a jeep commercial but it seems like a practical choice for mobile living on a tight budget. The only drawback I would see is the very limited gas mileage.

 
At 2:03 AM, Blogger Zen Angel said...

Just wanted to say that I am enjoying your blog quite a bit. Keep up the good work.

I was homeless twice in my life, and agree with you on the rest areas. I once lived for two months, parking nightly at a rest area called Starvation Creek. Oh, the irony.....

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger zovirl said...

Here is a second vote for an article on what kind of car to choose. I was thinking about this blog driving home the other day and decided I wouldn't want to live in my Honda Civic. The most obvious choice is a van...I assume this means a van is a bad choice. Anyway, I would be interested to read your thoughts on the topic.

 
At 8:19 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Hello, first of all I wanted to comment on what a great site you have with lots of useful information for those that either need it or will need it one day.

I had a couple of ideas. On the entertainment. Magazines and newspapers? I thought a great place to find those would be at bus stations. People reading them while waiting and tossing them as they board.

Another Idea I had is about parking. Would a used car lot work during the night, or on the days they are closed? Not sure about the logistics on that. Just a thought.

Thanks, Jeff

 
At 9:50 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Hi Jeff,

Used car lots don't sound like a great idea to me, only because I don't like a lot of surveilance. If it is a dealer lot, it would probably be impossible due to security. If it is a for-sale-by-owner lot, I suppose it would work, but you'd have people checking out your car. That doesn't work for me. In general, parking lots have a large number of disadvantages. I always favored street parking. There are always exceptions. If there is an advantage that outweighs the risks, set aside my advice.

Your ideas for finding free papers and magazines work fine. Don't steal them from coffee shops, though, or you're likely to wear out your welcome.

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger Gudlyf said...

I dunno about your reasons for not choosing a campsite as a "home". Your reasons and tone sound more like you just don't have much experience with the subject and put too much of your own preference into your answer, so you shrug it off to sterotypical answers. In your book, I'd rather see more research put into that aspect of homlessness because I know for a fact that there are lots of campsites close enough to civilization to get to what you need quickly. You also don't get into using a towable camper to sleep in -- not everyone who camps has to use a tent. There are also alternative fuel heaters one can use in these campers/tents instead of relying only on a fire. And campesites aren't always in the thick of woods where animals are a threat, so I guess I just don't see your explanation as very satisfying.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I think you are Gudlyf. I have not provided a very satisfying answer on the campsite prospect. This is because I have never been a wilderness survival type of person, so my experiences, limited as they are, with camping have been exceedingly uncomfortable.

There are a lot of experts on camping out there, and I would be playing catch up in a field that doesn't interest me much to spend a lot of effort researching this possibility. I have a lot of expertise to offer. I'll leave it to other experts to cover camping.

I really do my best to expose my bias in my writing. I am glad you can see that my bias against camping is a personal preference.

 
At 8:04 PM, Blogger mattytee said...

Great information!
I have been reading all your posts and can't wait to read more. I have to say, you have a very clear writing style and I think you should pitch publishers on your book. I for one would buy it.

I noticed someone asking about a vehicle to do this in, so I had to share what I think is the ideal one: a VW camper bus. They have a bed, closet, table, and storage built in. The are cheap to buy and to maintain -- with the aid of a well-known book (called "the idiot book") you can do most of the work yourself. They get great gas mileage. Plus you are instantly the member of a community. If you broke down in a Jeep, no one would look twice. In a VW, you have help in a trice. Dig it!

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger Woolfey said...

One of the things that didn't hurt me was the older nice condition pickup we used to tow with. In a previous life I would have wanted to restore it and make it perfect.. or at least mine. When I did have to talk to the blue guys about something the conversation would get round to the truck. Running gear, and questions about older safety stuff... (my safety stuff is still in nice shape..) My wife and I were very lucky to get an older rig in really nice shape. We tried to look like we were off to a rod run or some sort of thing when we were moving a lot. My newer truck might not be so good for that Its a 1985, my old one was a 1971. We were extremely lucky with parking right up till our present situation.. Now we are separated from our freedom machine. Hopefully spring will change things.

 
At 7:55 AM, Blogger monica said...

Thank you for your "how to survive" articles. This if my first time experiencing this. I own an SUV. I just checked out of a motel for one week but I will not have money for an efficiency until my unemployment kicks this week. But somehow I still feel secure and blessed that I have my SUV because with that I know that I will always have shelter. I had thought about Walmart also because it open 24hrs and is always crowded. Thank you for the confirmation because I feel so much better about things now. And you are right also about the sense of freedom. Again thank you, I really needed to read this.

 
At 8:48 AM, Blogger Alex said...

I was "homeless" and lived out of a car for a year and a half while working and spending less than $200 a month. Your blog is well written and has some great advice.

What worked for me as far as parking was concerned was to find a lot in the back of an abandoned house in a residential / commercial zone. I managed to track down the owner of the house and explained to him that I would like to stay there and that I would keep an eye on the place and do some yardwork for him in exchange. I also introduced myself to the neighbors and
let them know what I would be doing and even got to be friends with one couple in the nieghborhood. I think that people who choose to be homeless should not overlook the power of an intelligent charismatic conversation to overcome prejudice and help you find a place to stay for free.

I also find it ridiculous that sleeping in a vehicle is illegal most places, but my approach was far easier and less stressful than dealing with cops and robbers.

 
At 5:17 AM, Blogger gallaga said...

I lived in my Nissan Altima for almost 2 months last fall/winter. I modified it by taking the passenger seat and rear seats out. This allowed me to cook, sleep fully extended and very inconspicously, and just lounge in the back. I got hastled in Texas @ 3 A.M. by some small town law enforcement but never had any problems in Walmart parking lots where I stayed a majority of the time. The only problem for me was bathing...but I wasnt applying for jobs or trying to find a date, so it wasnt a huge issue.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Snow said...

You seem to be very good at writing.

Did you ever think of becoming a writer???

 
At 10:28 AM, Blogger KatsGram said...

Hi,the last two nights have been in a "Super"Walmart parking lot, in my car. Our town is only 9000 or so, so most of the cops know us and are usually good and our WalMart is o-k too, but you are right about not every night! A couple of nights here a couple there. In Wisconsin our rest areas are a pride and joy and are generally quite clean, so they are an option. Country roads... hmm. Ever hear of Ed Gein? But I love the info, shame it has to exist in the US though. Stay safe y'all!!

 
At 11:35 AM, Anonymous sparkyharky said...

I was homeless for 2 and a half years in Florida, and am now homeless again. I parked in a local Wal Mart parking lot, the manager knew I was there and I was welcomed into the store to bathe in the handicapped stall in the early morning hours prior to going to work. I also kept a few pet store rats in the car with me and no one including the police bothered me for long....they were all afraid of the rats..which BTW make excellent pets and, contrary to popular opinion do not bite...I was glad to become housed but am now glad to be homeless again due to financial freedom it affords... I am a substitute teacher... You are so right about the police harrassment though..I got plenty of that too...Maybe this time we will utilize the rest areas on our highway nearby..Thank You!!! We just found your site!!

 
At 7:03 AM, Anonymous MIA from 07920 said...

I guess the kind and condition of the vehicle also affects parking it. Wehn I had to park overnight I always lowered the back seats and slept with my feet in the trunk, usually with some kind of cover for the rear windows.

You can usually park at any housing development where they have condominiums. Choose carefully, pick a visitor spot. This is good for a night's sleep, but not much else.

Also, in large rural cities you'll find that the local police visitor parking lot is away from the police building. It's a very safe place for overnight parking.

Most choices fall under the rule, "It's easier to be forgiven than to get permission."

 
At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great site, I love it. :)

 
At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great info, takes me back in time reading it. :-/
I used to park at McDonalds sometimes. Good for a one time stop and at the crack of dawn they awake you to fresh coffee and a place to brush your teeth and wash.

 
At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Hey hey,

What about townhouses, or apartment complexes? There are always visitors, you would be in a well lit area, away from prying eyes, I'm sure there would be at least some shade. Even getting in your car seems like not a hard(ish) thing to do, right? Just got the cover on, forgot something in the passenger seat. DRAT *slaps forhead* and climb on in.

Cheers,
Aaron

 
At 6:42 PM, Anonymous FearlessDog said...

Your site is fascinating. Your resourcefulness and intelligence amazes me. I've told many friends about your site. My friends and I are upper middle class but have an obsessive fear of homelessness. The "Baglady" syndrome is prevalent among most women I know. Even multi-millionaires. It is very comforting to know how to survive in the jungle without a "den" or "pack" to support you.

 
At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use these tactics all the time when on road trips. 24 hr walmarts are great, and you can get a McNally map from walmart that lists them, etc. very handy. I worked at walmart for 5 years. Walmart encourages overnighters in their parking lots. The only risk is from police doing routine drive bys in small towns, hence why using only the 24 hr stores is advised.

 
At 7:46 AM, Anonymous minnow said...

Thanks you save people & myself money. Not only that I actually felt very educated and a sense of pride in a way that there is are 'techniques' to avoid or use. I 50 50 like dislike being homeless but choose, like you said on how much to spend or save or do and that you should be able to change from the money saved if your working anyway. PS if homeless you could work with out loosing job from not keeping a good attitude and not looking homeless as i would think some employers might try to make it rough or get rid git red of you? if you're not in a house; between two folks if one lives in a place where rent is 300 and the other pay 2,600 $ contract house payments it's obvious to the norm. Minnow

 
At 10:00 PM, Anonymous johnny robot said...

I live in a very large urban area and was recently laid off. I can barely afford my rent with my unemployment check, so I've been contemplating living in a car. I can use my gym membership for showering and I already use a laundromat for washing clothes. As far as parking, I've got two ideas and was wondering if anyone has had any experience with these(?):(1)I've seen a few listings for parking spaces for rent, like in alley areas and people who own garages. (2) I've thought about renting a 24 hour access storage unit and just park my car in it. Pros and Cons?

 
At 8:43 PM, Blogger rdr said...

I am planning on attending an art college in boston starting this spring. I have enough funding to pay tuition and some living expensess but do not forsee funding that will cover room and board. I now live in los angeles and have no real world knowledge of the boston area. i am pondering the idea of attending college in boston and living however i can. I could aquire a van to live in, but have no idea about the logistics of parking and living in a van in boston. I beleive withthe right equipment i could survive the winters in a van- but where would i keep the van at night and while in class. Are there areas outside the city that might make this scheme possible, using public transportation to get in and out of the city. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

 
At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Sav munny said...

I live in a camper with no water,
i use 5 gallon buckets with lids for water collection, find these at food places.
Best vehicle to live in is a 80s VW diesel rabbit truck with a cap. You can run these vehicles on used fryer oil from bars, and ice cream stands, you can even use a little veg oil in the crankcase if your low on oil,mixed with a small amount of gasoline to thin out the vegetable oil, as not to clog fuel filters,. You will then need a power inverter to run ac powered devices off the car battery, bring a extra battery to keep charged by rotating the battery between drives,then you can buy a coleman instant hot water propane shower for about 120bucks, pump coldwater from a 5gallon bucket. Sometimes look for abandoned barns, and peoples vacation cabins,away from neighbors, park way up behind them for a safe overnight sleep, look out for how much light you emit at night. Food is tough, learn your wild edibles. There is a virtual ceasar salad of flavors out there in the woods.
how about parking at really old graveyards way out of the way?
Campgrounds run your plates so make sure you have up to date insurance.

Dont be scared. just do itLive in a camper work on your education, and be the Ultimate money saving machine! then buy some land put your camper on it, gather materials to build a small pole building, then save ,build a house, then start a family.

 
At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm about to be evicted i'm diabled and i have no money i figure if i can live in my car and see our fine country for next 3-5 years i can afford to by a small condo ,,,,i pray,,,,,,im scared,,,,,my kids have 1 more year of college and i feel bad they have no home to come home to and i'll have to leave wi as itll be getting cold soon,,,im in chronic pain and feel ill at least ill meet people and enjoy our country

 
At 4:54 AM, Anonymous on the road said...

Do truck stops allow you to park a car or van for the night if you are a paying customer?

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am interested in more information about the car camping kit (a Google search was useless for this term), and information about keeping / cooking food. I have been homeless twice - both times with children, both times for extended times (more than 3 months). While I wouldn't want to raise them this way, I agree that shelters are not a first choice.

 
At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a very unpleasant two month stint as part of the homeless congregation in Florida, where I found solace only in your blog and my car. I would like to thank you for articulately providing we lesser mortals with this vital information.
In reference to utilizing hotel parking lots, I must say that when my husband and I bedded down in a Holiday Inn lot [where, I add, there was plenty of room for their customers] for about three nights, we were awakened rather rudely by two of their staff who stated that their manager requested that we not stay there anymore. We were not bothering anyone and usually left by a bit after dawn, when their customers wouldn't notice or be offended by our presence. The dynamic of circumstantial homelessness [and chosen, I suspect] leads for the person/people in the compromising position to engage in forced consideration, when they are shown so little in return.

 
At 2:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've spent countless nights at Flying J's and Walmart's while traveling. Never once had a problem.

 
At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

Im soon to be homeless, and rather than riding it out till the day it came, ive started taking it on board and living out of the car. I figured it made more sense to get used to it and roll into it then put up with it as a last resort.

I have been staying at storage locations where they rent budget trucks. People rent trucks and leave the car behind till the next day when they return it, so a car parked overnight isnt out of place.

Of course you always have to pick and choose your overnight stay spots. Never assume that you wont be bothered if you are simply 'out of the way'.

I have to agree that walmart is the most accommodating for overnight parking. And as a bonus its well lit and more secure than most lots.

If it has a mini food court inside all the better, because you can get a cheap pretzel (maybe not the healthiest) that can have a very warming effect on your stomach on a cold night. And the tasty bread is very filling, so if you are in straights with nourishment it can hold you over for a while, even with eating it over a day or two.

Excellent postings however, and i commend you for publishing this blog.

 
At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived with my bf and son out of a scion xb and tents for almost the entire summer. We kind of pretended for my son that we were "camping" as we moved to the west coast however really we were homeless.

I hate camping. I hated all the packing and unpacking etc and loading everything on our car.

It was really really hard. My BF got work quick and even full time we did not have credit not bad credit we had no credit could not get into an apartment for lack of credit. Not only that but staying in state parks was as expensive as renting.

We now understand the homeless situation here in SOCAL. If you have no credit or bad credit you are royally screwed and no one cares.

We live now in a tiny apt but are surprisingly content. However there is a huge homeless population right down the street from us. Literally hundreds of people on the street.

I hate seeing it because it is so unfair. These people are standing against fences in perfectly good completely empty parking lots where in third world cities poor people could build and live in little shanty towns and at least have shelter and sleep.

Or you could develop 100% self sustaining developments for these people.

I dunno maybe have a sleep in for the homeless where we have an event once a week where people can come to the park for a few hours and get totally uninterrupted sleep.

Everything about that sleep law is really bothering me and I want to shed light on it and make it clear to everyone on this planet that it is not against the law to be sleeping.

 
At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great site, excellent advice. I have had some bad luck with timing. When it looks like the coast is clear I go to get in my car and DAMN! Right then all of a sudden it's Grand Central Station. People coming out of nowhere, cars pulling in. I feel so busted I know I must look guilty of something. Any ideas other than "find a new place"? It happens in a lot of different types of places. I'm feeling like Wile E. Coyote here.

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Wile E Coyote - My advice is not to worry so much about it. Most of the time people don't know what they are seeing. Just get in the car and play the odds. It's a lot like lying in that they have to spot the deception and then they have to overcome their societally ingrained resistance to calling you on it. That's a heavy burden for them to bear. Try not to live in fear.

 
At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Mobile Homemaker. You're right, I shouldn't be so paranoid. I will take your advice - Wile E. Coyote

 
At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty good but really a "car" is not a good idea, best is a "cargo" van, ie the type that doesn't have side windows for anybody to look in on and many of them have the rear windows already covered up so it doesn't look unusual. This way you have more room inside and don't have to get in and out or place a cover on and then crawl in. Look for a 1/2 or 3/4 ton short cab with a V6 and you're set! Troll Craigslist and find a used rv or marine propane heater and now you have heat, go to an RV parts place and get either one or two roof vents and you have cooling in the summer. A couple of led lights from the same places and you can see inside at night. A few 2x4's and some plywood from Home Depot (they'll even cut it to size for you) and you have a bed. Done! I know a camper van is more comfortable and has high headroom and a built in heater, etc.... but it's very conspicuous and won't blend in very well, though if you live in a cold climate it's nice (speaking from experience here in Seattle.) My other choice would be one of the "conversion" vans as they often offer a fair amount of headroom and a built in bed but I don't like all the extra windows as they have to be covered to sleep yet they still allow a lot ofl light in with the factory shades and if you cover them with something else it's just a signal to the cops to wake you up to "check you out" (again speaking from experience.) Hope this helps. Darrell

 
At 8:35 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

For me a van was just too obvious. They are cop magnets. You are correct about the advantages, though.

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous david said...

awesome info!! tip o the hat bro..wanted to suggest my only option in a smaller town was to park at the hospital for two nights. my thought was that it was safe and if bothered i would say that i was just visiting someone and needed sleep. I used the restroom in the ER and left in the morning so I had no problems there

 
At 9:02 PM, Blogger Elijah said...

Hospital parking lots are great too. Especially in the middle to back end of the emergency side. I have done this frequently and only have been questioned once. When questioned i said that I was prone to anxiety attacks and was waiting it out there in the car before i knew i had to go in to the emergency room.

 
At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information you are providing here. I have been staying in my van, and it's been a lot harder than I thought it would be. It is nice to know I am not alone with some of these experiences.

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger escapingthedesk said...

Thank you for the great blog. You have opened my eyes. I am 30 and for the last 10 years I have done well in the corporate world and I have a wealth of "material" to show for it. Renting out my home and living in the truck for awhile will be my tool to obtain financial freedom. I will keep my job, save a large portion of my paychecks and buy investment real estate (like a fourplex) that will provide income each month to fund my "truck lifestyle". Or I will move into my fourplex and live for cheap or free there. I will probably still want some additional income so I will seek short term consulting projects, seasonal work, or whatever. Working just to meet my expenses feels empty. Working to move forward to a goal of financial freedom is more relevant. I love camping and being outdoors, so I think I will like truck living.

My biggest concerns are being hassled by the cops (I am a 30 year old gal) and where to go between 4 PM when I get off work and 10 PM when I find a spot to sleep.

 
At 12:33 AM, Blogger MikeG said...

to escaping the desk... there are lots of places to hang out while waiting for the time to sleep. parks,malls,dollar theater,coffee shops,book stores,most 24 hour diners,baseball/football fields, either watch the game or hang by the car,especially the baseball games played by corporate teams, they drink and couldn't care less what you do in the parking lot, supermarket parking lots for 4 to 6 hours at the most, otherwise the buggy kids get suspicious but mostly parks, especially if you like to read or do crafts or such. internet cafes are good too. I could go on and on... just be where people are and don't look like your trying to hide.

 
At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Je-c said...

Sorry I haven't been commenting. I just started reading this series, and I absolutely love it. I've always wanted to try the homeless lifestyle, for a while, at least. Probably sometime after college, if I go. Reading this makes me kind of worry about all the details.. it seems like it's really hard to get a good night's sleep! But I'm so glad for it, and much more prepared now. I didn't even think of having a car before, stupid me. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Your writing's entertaining to read, too.

 
At 6:49 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Your concern over contacts with the police is one that I initially shared. However, at least in my area (Denver) the cops have been very understanding and have even shown concern for my safety. I think the officers that recognize my truck even watch out for me now, checking only to see if I'm all right. I can't tell you how that little bit of respect and humanity have renewed my hope for the future and restored some of my dignity.

 
At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great article. I got pinched at a super market while i was sleeping, it was no fun. My business is slowing and I can no longer afford housing, so I thought I would get a refresher on my homeless skills.

 
At 1:25 AM, Blogger RomeRun said...

Well, rule #1 is, "don't get caught" (borrowing from Dexter, heh), it's important to make sure nobody knows you are sleeping in the car, then you can sleep in the resident area where a fogged car is not cops' target.

Cops do not care of a fogged car in resident street parking, but they do, if they've found one at 3am in a strip mall parking lot.

Fog is pretty much unavoidable. In summer, you can get rid of it by leaving a fraction of your windows open. However, in winter, there's no way to keep your front glass from being fogged.

Well, you might try to cover the car, so that no one see the windows at all, but it'll make your car stand out of its neighbors.

So, I prefer to make my car look as normal as possible while not letting anyone seeing inside.

My wagon is mirror tinted on the rear glasses. then I use a window sunshade to block the light from the front part. When no light coming out from inside, there is no way to see through the tint glasses.

This way I can park anywhere where I'm not the only one in the spot. My favorite places besides resident area are

- motel parking lot. When I'm on vacation where I can't be certain of safe sleeping spots. Believe me they don't care if they don't know somebody is inside using their wifi. And if you are brave and clean enough, you may crash their morning breakfast with the real guests.

- 24hr places. My fitness is 24hr, one Starbucks in town where I am typing here is 24hr, people don't give much sh*t, they probably think you are just a regular late night customer.

 
At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

We are really thankful for your blog, My wife and I will start a stint of car living after the first of the month, we have both lost our jobs.

We are preparing our selves, we are spending our last bit of cash on needed supplies like ramen and can goods, water and medical supplies.

I am very happy to find your blog. I am worried about my wife's safety but I believe in the city we live in we will be fine. (hope at least)

 
At 3:15 AM, Blogger Kahuna said...

Parking In LA,Calif. Stealth is the only way to avoid problems. There is a sizable group of people living in vehicles Vans,Cargo Vans, Motor Homes, and similar vehicles are open targets. Removing the front passenger seat and rear bench seat will allow you to sleep flat and sleep below the sight line. Someone could walk by as close as 36 inches and not see you sleeping. Locate a marine hardware store near a marina and purchase Vents (as large as possible)used in boats. Mount these vents between the top of your car and the rear quarter panel. Have a body shop install and paint to match and the vents will look like part of the car. These vents will prevent the windows from fogging up. The regular windows can now be rolled up all the way. Spend the 300.00 dollars and have your car repainted this will allow you to blend in. Dress your tires to give them the new look. Keep your license plate front and rear clean. Keep your siginal and brake lens clean and working. These steps will greatly reduce your chances of becoming a target.

 
At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a lot of information to share about sleeping in the car. When I graduated from college I had no job. So I moved back home with my parents. The only job I could get was for $12/hr three hours away. I knew the city well and I know of locations where I could try and hang out during the late hours to sleep.

I always waited until 10:30 to 11:00 pm to arrive at the location I would sleep at. I would then make sure I was awake by 4:00 am to leave the area.

I started work at 7:00 am and would arrive at my work location (a ramp, thank god) and I would take another hour nap. I always arrived to work early in order to wash.

I have learned a great deal about copy behavior at night.

What not to do:

- Sleep at a park
- Sleep where there is a lot of car traffic or foot traffic.
- sleep with your head so others can see you (always lower your seat and hide under the level of your window)
- Get away from the main roads

What to do:

- NEVER, and I mean NEVER, sleep at the same location more than two nights in a row. All it takes is one person to see you sleeping in the car one night and they keep seeing your car come at night at the same time. Eventually people will complain and cops will start looking for you. I lasted 11 months of sleeping in the same area (but different locations of the same area) before a cop came knocking on my window). I always had my head hidden under the window level so there was no way they would see me just driving buy. I got caught because a person took a photo of me sleeping in the car and the cops keept looking for me to be there at night. One night they got me and knocked on the door. I lied to them and said I was too tired to drive and I got away with it.

- If you expect people are catching onto any pattern you may have developed, you need to change that pattern STAT. That is how I avoided getting caught for the next three months until I could finally afford an apartment to rent out to sleep and and eat at. I just stayed at the parking lot where I worked at and slept from the time we left work until 10 pm. I then drove to a parking lot where there was a 24hr gym. I would stay there until 3 am as I would spend that time writing articles (might as well doing something constructive during that time) to submit online to be paid. After 3 am I would drive to a park where I know there isn't anyone around after 3 am to wash my hair. I would make sure that I would never spend more than 5 minutes at the park to wash my hair. I would then drive to various parking lots around town to change my clothes. Then I would eat breakfast and go to work...always arriving early to wash in the bathroom.

- Use a paper towel as your towel. Use a large bottle of water and use the paper towel to hold the water as you splash the water onto you. Then spread shampoo around your body and wash it off with a towel or more paper towels. Your skin is then fresh and smells good.

The danger time of sleeping in your car is from 11:00 pm to 3:00 am. Trust me, after spending two years sleeping in the car you can trust me when I say, "cops have nothing better to do at 3 am then to look for people sleeping in their car."

After I got caught I went from sleeping in the drivers to going into the trunk. I put some cushions in the trunk to lay on and kept the seat positioned so I could get out. I never had any problem doing this.

At the end of the day, cops cause more trouble to people who are just trying to survive than they do of any good. I have lived it and know it. Cops are evil.

 
At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What to do:

- NEVER, and I mean NEVER, sleep at the same location more than two nights in a row. All it takes is one person to see you sleeping in the car one night and they keep seeing your car come at night at the same time. Eventually people will complain and cops will start looking for you. I lasted 11 months of sleeping in the same area (but different locations of the same area) before a cop came knocking on my window). I always had my head hidden under the window level so there was no way they would see me just driving buy. I got caught because a person took a photo of me sleeping in the car and the cops keept looking for me to be there at night. One night they got me and knocked on the door. I lied to them and said I was too tired to drive and I got away with it.

- If you expect people are catching onto any pattern you may have developed, you need to change that pattern STAT. That is how I avoided getting caught for the next three months until I could finally afford an apartment to rent out to sleep and and eat at. I just stayed at the parking lot where I worked at and slept from the time we left work until 10 pm. I then drove to a parking lot where there was a 24hr gym. I would stay there until 3 am as I would spend that time writing articles (might as well doing something constructive during that time) to submit online to be paid. After 3 am I would drive to a park where I know there isn't anyone around after 3 am to wash my hair. I would make sure that I would never spend more than 5 minutes at the park to wash my hair. I would then drive to various parking lots around town to change my clothes. Then I would eat breakfast and go to work...always arriving early to wash in the bathroom.

- Use a paper towel as your towel. Use a large bottle of water and use the paper towel to hold the water as you splash the water onto you. Then spread shampoo around your body and wash it off with a towel or more paper towels. Your skin is then fresh and smells good.

The danger time of sleeping in your car is from 11:00 pm to 3:00 am. Trust me, after spending two years sleeping in the car you can trust me when I say, "cops have nothing better to do at 3 am then to look for people sleeping in their car."

After I got caught I went from sleeping in the drivers to going into the trunk. I put some cushions in the trunk to lay on and kept the seat positioned so I could get out. I never had any problem doing this.

At the end of the day, cops cause more trouble to people who are just trying to survive than they do of any good. I have lived it and know it. Cops are evil.

 
At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After I got caught I went from sleeping in the drivers to going into the trunk. I put some cushions in the trunk to lay on and kept the seat positioned so I could get out. I never had any problem doing this.

At the end of the day, cops cause more trouble to people who are just trying to survive than they do of any good. I have lived it and know it. Cops are evil.

 
At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is true I was homeless at ages 17 to 27 It was a pain at times but strangly nice other older now But since divorced and kids all moved away thinking of going out again with knowledge from past to make it more manageable

 
At 6:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left an comment about sleeping in the trunk of a pontiac. Please do not post it. It is really not safe. If someone hit your car from behind, it would jack-knife you face first into your trunk. The only relatively safe way would be with your back end against a wall.

 
At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with your analysis of homeless needing a car. Yes, it would be the best way to go, but how many homeless people actually have that luxury? Everyone reading your book must of seen homeless people standing on the corner and migrating from place to place, some more then a year or two years or three. So it's more plausible to be homeless with out protection. Especially if the Repo man comes and tracks you down your plates for not making payments. Please provide tips for everyone.

 
At 7:08 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I find your tone and manner offensive, Anonymous. I believe that anyone who is homeless would benefit by procuring a car, any car, in any condition. I did not recommend going deeply into debt to obtain one. It would certainly be best not to owe money on your jalopy, and thus to avoid any concerns about repo men. It's also necessary to keep said jalopy street legal, and to park in legal spots, so as to avoid run ins with the tow yard. Just because a course of action presents challenges does not mean that it is not the best course to recommend. If you are homeless, get a car.

 
At 11:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with sleeping in a car seems to be that you're left exposed for several hours, giving people time to get suspicious. I wonder if the Uberman Sleep Schedule (four hours of consciousness, twenty minute nap, repeat) would be a practical option for the homeless. There are obvious benefits to the twenty minute nap since most shopping trips last longer and people are going to be less suspicious. The real question is, is there enough to do to pass the time in order to keep the schedule up?

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I don't know the uberman reference, but that schedule seems likely to cause exhaustion and sleep psychosis.

 
At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am living in a pickup truck with a sleeper box. I would like to meet other homeless people to live in the woods and maybe work together.
I would like to rent a space in a farm with shower rights and a physical mailing address to park my truck. I would be living in my truck.
My email is Ed_warfield@yahoo.com
I am a professional out of luck for the moment. I dont do drugs or anything against the law.

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger John Boy said...

As far as parking is concerned I am
always paranoid no matter where I park. However The reason I chose to relocate to the town im in now is due to the size, and social structure
which is more conducive to people with needs what ever they may be.
There is a homeless shelter in town with free public transportation, so
getting around is easy if your car less. I do have a mini van which I set up to live in and it is pretty
comfortable, up to the point where I turn off the in door safe propane heater. I built a plywood platform about 14" off the floor,and made a side open cabinet at the right rear that holds small propane stove to cook and make coffee. All of my clothes are in the space underneath my sleeping deck,plenty of storage.
Like others have mentioned on other sites, look like you blend in. The homeless shelter here is a good place to get a meal,which you can without being a "resident"
which is a last resort in my case,cause I have the van. Don't like parking in city limits due to a robust city police force. Have been driving out of town about 12 miles one way to sleep in the national forest land which is free and not under local or state jurisdiction. Unfortunately the area camp grounds are closed for the season. I hope to get some assistance from the local churches when I go this Sunday. Hopefully someone will let me stay on some land or property, which will save me from burning up my limited savings on fuel. Trying to find somewhere with in 5 miles of town would be the deal. For what its worth, if you are in the process of becoming homeless and have a vehicle, or can buy one cheap, "get it" cause you need to be mobile for work and to avoid the shelters if you have to. I eat one meal a day there but would not want to live there, some pretty rough people staying there.

 
At 5:35 PM, Blogger Justin said...

This stuff is great, thanks for putting it up. I'm 18 and thinking about living this way when I go to LA for college. One question though- Since I will be doing this long-term, I'm thinking about getting a Sprinter (made by Dodge or Mercedes... idk lol) to live in. It seems great as far as space, but my only concern is parking. Let's say I had to park in a residential area, for example. Do you think it would stand out too much? I think it would probably be fine, but I was just looking for a second opinion.

 
At 6:44 PM, Blogger John Boy said...

I lost this site for awhile and found it on my history page. If it were me and it is, I would pick up a used service van from a plumbing, HVAC ect in good condition. A Ford E series van that is the stretch model would be the one, bigger the better. I would have it completly self contained with on board water to cook, shower ect. Also have reserve batteries w/ an inverter to have house hold electricity. Iv'e done alot of research on modifications and you can really make these things plush. One thing I also do when parking at night usually at wally world or a local park and ride is put the magnetic sings that I used for a small side business I had once on my doors. that tends to give me a bit more credibility, looking more like a commercial vehicle that might have been left there for reasons other than sleeping. Be creative!!

 
At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family & I have been homeless since October 2010 & I'm just now reading this after I've already figured out a system. But your posts do make me more aware of things like police & car thieves. We usually stay at a Walmart or CVS or something that is open 24hrs in case we have to use the restroom. We've only had a problem with a cop when we decided to try something different & park near an apartment complex. We just told him we were traveling & couldn't drive anymore so we pulled over to rest for a minute. I don't think too many cops would be like "I don't care if you are sleepy & may die on the road! Get back on it!"... He actually kept an eye out for us the rest of the night until we moved.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger John Boy said...

So I don't forget this is March 2,2011 and Now I can find info that is up to date. Fortunately I havn't
had a run in with the cops and hope to never. A certain level of paranoia helps also although I prefer not to be. My problem is that I moved back to town where I had lived a couple of years ago with the local address so getting (caught)
would be kinda hard to explain with a physical house where I don't actually don't live. Thankfully there is still the forest service land near by and the odd motel parking lot and wally world of course. I got up with some local churches as I am a
believer also helps, and they have been pretty helpful in letting me use the facilities and offering some food as well. I also have a part time job that doesn't pay much but for gas and cheap buffet
once a week. Thankfully it isnt teens and single temps any more at night even though I have a small LP heater I dont let it run all night. Learn the ropes and pray for spring and use all the facilities available to you from local parks lakes streams ect. and you will be fine. P.S. dont stay in the same spot more than 3 days in a row, it will bring the man down on you. Blessings

 
At 4:39 AM, Anonymous cameron K said...

thank you for all your information^ i do realize how old this posting is but im hopeing u still maintain this site and check up on comments offten. I have a question that i cannot find anywhere on the web. Is it illegal to sleep in your car in washington state? Particularly longview.washington. I have of recent become homeless and i have no where to go. Even the homeless shelters r full. If u could give me some feed back that would be much appreciated! =) email me if u could please at HotVWs82@yahoo.com thank you again and i hope to hear from u soon

 
At 8:54 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I'm not from Washington, but sleeping in your car tends to bring unwanted police attention almost everywhere you go. You ask if it is illegal. I say, who cares? I am far more concerned with making it work than with making it legal. Hence, you need a car cover. Hence, you need to park in many different places. There's a lot you can do, but last on your list of concerns should be the law. The police don't even care if it is law. They will mess with you if they find you out, so use my blog to do it right.

 
At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the method of finding 10 places to park. In fact, I will write them down and have them on a check list. I know of 6 so far. Rest stops (In WA) have a 8 hr limit, OR has 12. Go figure. But you Do have style in writing. Hope you get a chance to do a book. Good stuff so far.

 
At 2:13 PM, Anonymous paul said...

i am planning on living homeless, in a van, come august and its great to read this site, as its helps when the doubts start to set in. i am starting to think more postive about it all and feel more and more that i can do this with a bit o thought and preparaton,thanks

 
At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Trying to make it work said...

I have been homeless for a while now. I do have a job, but its not paying enough for me to get a place on my own. so pretty much i live out of my car. i don't really follow your parking rules here. i park in an empty Micheals lot. only a few times have the cops woken me up, and that was just to make sure i was okay. one of them who is a customer of mine actually woke me up because he thought i was late for work. they don't even seem to notice that my inspection sticker on my car is out of date. I actually started out sleeping behind the Micheals, but they told me that it would be better for me to sleep in the walmart parking lot, but then i brought up the no overnight parking signs and they agreed with me on that (my walmart is part of a mall). so they told me to just sleep out in the open so i didn't look like i was up to trouble and now they pretty much just leave me alone.

 
At 8:15 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Anything that works for you is okay. It sounds like you have a good relationship with law enforcement.

 
At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like everyone else I too love this site/topic/posts. I came across it while on my laptop in a public library in Sarasota..Today is May 29th, and it is 90 and humid. I differ from most of the posters, as I do not plan or need to be homeless(sleeping in my car). I am traveling from NY to relocate in Fla..Im 45 yrs old..I slept in my car last nite because I get a monthly pension and it comes last day of the month..2 more days. I sympathize with your plight( if u see it as one)..A previous post commented on killing a day waiting for a place to sleep..I have $2 for 2 more days, enough gas to get me back to the hotel parking lot I slept in tonite and hopefully back tmrw nite. It is so hot, and this library closes in 45 mins...and shade is very hard to come by here. I parked my '01 Nissan Xterra (tinted back windows) in a hotel parking lot, far away from the closest lot light as possible. The lot got fuller around 10, and eventually filled up(memorial day wknd)by midnite. I layed in the back with seat down and sweat my a** off 'til about 4 am when it finally cooled down. I got out of my truck around 7:15, grabbed my laptop and cell phone and pretended to be calling someone I was waiting for to come down..I spoke loud enough for the front desk to hear me say "Well, hurry down...I'm gonna grab a cup of coffee, you want one?" I then went into the continental bkfst area had some powdered eggs, sausage, juice and coffee( i took one to go for my friend too;)...Sorry for the rambling, I just wanted to relay my story. Aside from the blistering humidity it was kinda exciting, but then I don't have to do this every nite, just 2 more. I wish all of you out there good luck, sincerely, in finding a more stable living situation. I am not judging...this is a very tough time we are living in.

 
At 2:57 PM, Anonymous lou said...

i'm going to be living in my car in 4 days time... and your blog has made me feel slightly better and slightly more prepared.
Keep up your writing, it is brilliant x

 
At 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your encouraging words, being prepared makes it less difficult, any safe heating suggestions for inside cars? Where I am it has gotten to -20 in winter, also my suv back srat lays to make sleeping area is that low enough to not b seen? How do u block front of car ,curtain obvious

 
At 10:51 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

My method of concealment is a car cover. See my article on it of the same name.

Heating a car is always a safety issue. There aren't any good ways to do it when the vehicle isn't driving down the road. The car can become a carbon monoxide trap. See my article on Staying Warm for a few suggestions.

 
At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anna said...

There is a sub-culture of people who live in their cars who call themselves "vandwellers". There was a website I found useful when I was facing homelessness a few years ago, but I can't find it now. Try googling "van dwelling" and you'll find a plethora of information on how to live in a van, car, truck, commercial vehicle, or RV. Sorry if someone else has already recommended this. There are too many comments to read them all!

 
At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the end of my hostile marriage it was very difficult for me to be at home and I couldn't afford a hotel every night so I slept in my van my nights to avoid a very difficult situation. I would recommend to not sleep the whole night in one spot to avoid detection. A good choice to to sleep is a late night restaurant or a bar and place that closes late into the night, like 2:00, stay until 3:00am when there still might be workers there, that way an authority might just think your a worker closing up. I have my alarm set to wakeup and then have a preplanned 24hour place to go to to have breakfast like a Denny's. You can then have breakfast, coffee, use the restroom, go back in the car and either sleep alittle more or move on. I felt the safest this way. After this you can move on to a early morning conglomerate where there are cars parked at 4:00am for the workers, like a Home Depot or Target and blend in, sleep and little more than leave. There's never a problem sleeping during the day, so if you need some extra sleep just take a nap during the day somewhere else.

 
At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11/7/11 I have been thinking about how to keep yourself bathed while car camping and I have experimented with this. You wash your hair every 2 days in a sink by doing in in 2 parts the top first and then the bottom the next day. Use olive oil soap because it will rinse out in 1 or 2 cups of water. Keep a beany for the days you do the top and when you walk out of the restroom noone will see the wet hair on top. This will keep your hair clean.

 
At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Church parking lots on weekday nights - always worked for me. Then Saturday nights / Sunday mornings a small business lot (doctor, dentist, insurance company) I try to find a place that has one or two vacant cars in the lot overnight and park beside them.

Restaurants that open late (your fancier fare) also make good sleeping areas.

 
At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1.I like 24 hour supermarkets that don't have any overnight parking restriction signs and security guards cruising around. I drive a minivan so i blend in to the envirnment pretty good. Cops will think you're either shopping or working there.

2. I also like 24 hour fitness clubs. People will think you're inside working out. As long as you have a vehicle that blends in to the envirnment and you have tinted windows and stuff.

3.Church parking lots. Nobody will bother you.

4.Home depot or Lowes parking lots. You'll be the only one there, which makes you stand out. But they turn the parking lot's lights off and nobody can't see you from a distance. Sometimes they have their rental vans parked, so if you park close to it, and you have a van, then you'll just blend in. It can be dangerous cuz there's no one around.

5.Hotel parking lots. I park close to everybody and i just blend in.

I still have to try park & ride areas.

Never park in a big mall!! There's always security guards with flashlights checking out parked vehicles. They don't allow overnight parking. They will check your vehicle, if they can see you inside, they will wake you up with a flashlight on your face and bother you. If you cover the windows and they can't see you inside, they will knock on the window to see if someone is inside, if you don't answer, they will leave either a warning or a ticket on your windshield. They're a pain in the ass.

 
At 10:18 PM, Anonymous Lindsey said...

Thank you so much for this site. I'm 20 and for at least a year now I've wanted to try living in a van. The idea completely excites me! I work part-time and go to school, so I don't really make enough to pay for an apartment. My dad kicked me out a couple years ago, and I've been staying with my grandparents. I just feel like a burden though, and long for my own quiet space. I have a '98 Jeep Grand Cherokee which I've slept in before, so I'm sure it would be a comfy place to live. I work at a 24-hour grocery store, so I think I could park there at night--other employees know my car and wouldn't think it odd for it to be there at all. I hope I can find the courage to just make this happen. My fear of what my family will think has been holding me back for a while now.
Thanks again, I love reading (and re-reading) your posts!

 
At 1:06 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

@Lindsey Parking at work is a dangerous plan. You don't want your sleeping arrangements to be common knowledge in your workplace, it invites harassment and could even cost you your job. It isn't that hard to find parking and I've given you lots of advice on how to go about it. Just be careful about letting the people in your life know about your homelessness. It gives them power over you.

 
At 2:24 PM, Blogger Karen Mashler said...

Thank you so much for this blog!! I just moved back to CA from Utah after being laid off for a couple of years and finally got another job back here...only to get laid off again. This time with no where to live. Was couch surfing with friends and rotating motels on weekends to give them all "alone time" so as not to overstay my welcome. Anyway, when I got laid off everyone's attitude changed and first question was "how long do you think you will have to stay?". I've overstayed my welcome, and with no job it scares them into thinking you'll be staying on their couch for months, SO, I'm staying in my car. The first two nights I was stupid and tried mall parking, got rousted by rent a cop and the shocked look on his face when he saw a woman get out of the car was kind of a relief...he was very kind and very concerned. Both rentacops looked the same way, second one even let me stay for two more hours. Now I've read your blog and know to try hotels or etc. The biggest concern is my safety since I'm a woman. Both those guys were so worried it's gotten me worried, and I've only seen men or couples posting here. Any advice for a single woman please? Thanks, Karen

 
At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this.. I just left an abusive husband and have struggled to find work after years of isolation.I am now homeless.Family doesn't have money to have me come home and I cant afford to drive/fly home so I am here, homeless. I do have a car and so I am trying to figure out safe places for a lonely female to park.I am definitely terrified..I found this article helpful.I had thought about a campground but they charge almost as much as a hotel..might as well get a hotel for that amount of time then camp.Anyway tomorrow night I will be staying at a rest stop,then walmart the next night,and then who knows.. I am still scouting spots to park.My main concern is knowing where to shower and keep clean so I can find work.This is so hard and what I find frustrating is how CRUEL people are to the homeless..they always assume you are on drugs or a drunk etc and thats why you ended up homeless..not so. Anyway this has brought up many things for me and as soon as I am on my feet financially I WILL be coming up with ways to help others in the same situation.Again,thank you for this post.

 
At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just recently become homeless here in WA. So thanks for the advice all and much apprecite the great info. I do have an old van so I will have protection from the weather here in WA. Thanks again.

 
At 2:46 AM, Blogger Xtine said...

I'm addicted to this blog. I think it's true that if you were ever homeless, you never quite give up your fear that it's going to happen again no matter how much money you make/save. I read that even Madonna, a multi-millionaire, is super cheap and saves money because she was once homeless in NYC. She said "you never forget having to eat out of a trash can".

I'm concerned about the people who decide that they are going to leave their home city and go somewhere else, tour the country, etc if they find themselves homeless. To me that seems like the worst thing you can do. Nobody knows you! Nobody cares! I've been in the same area for the last 17 years. Why? Because I have years and years of relationships built up, friendships, people who know me and care if I live or die. Over 17 years they've seen me couch surf, in apartment after apartment, relationship after relationship, job after job, etc. They know me and would never think bad thoughts about me if I came to a rough patch. Friends are more precious than gold in this situation. They will give you places to stay, job opportunities, encouragement, ideas, hookups...they are your lifeline. Why would you leave the area where they can help you, to go somewhere nobody knows you?

Also, I wonder if anyone here has heard of the Tiny House people? There is now an entire group of people who are harvesting the frames from old RVs and building on top of these frames entire tiny houses that can be moved around with them, complete with bathrooms, kitchens, sleeping lofts, etc. It's absolutely amazing. The appliances run on solar or propane, so they spend hardly any money on monthly bills and can save a fortune. LOTS of people are simply CHOOSING this lifestyle because they can save their money rather than giving it to a bank or landlord. This makes SO MUCH SENSE TO ME. I love it. If you have carpentry skills you can make a tiny house for about 3,000 or less. You can use "found" materials for lots of stuff in the house- google "tiny house" to find out more.



 
At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Debbie said...

I am a 59 yo female living in flagstaff. I can become homeless at any time. I am a caregiver for a dying man. I have put a very thick padding, covered by sleeping basket and numerous sheets. All the windows are dark tinted plus I put on those black cling sheets on the windows only. The front side windows are slightly tinted and the front window is clear. I have an suv and I have laid down the back seats and I have plenty of room to sleep. I even have a twin size childs bed mattress, chaise lounge cusion, slepping bag and numerous blankets.I understand I should find 10 different places to sleep every night and rotate. I am scared stiff being a femle and alone. I agree with the walmart parking lot but ours says no overnight parking. They do any way. I guess I will stay as long as someone else does. Homeless are allowed in the public library. I've learned a whole lot from your posts. I think the only real problem I might be facing is eating and showering. You used to be able to take a shower and get a boxed lunch at the local goodwill but they moved away. I admit I'm frightened but I have pagemarked your article. I will read more tomorrow. I want to be prepaired. I have to do this for 3 years until I will be 62 and can get income housing. I just want to make it through the winters. Thanks for all you do.

 
At 9:25 PM, Blogger Ninpeach said...

Thank you. You are a treasure. Been trying to make it work in so many ways. Me and my two kids. The hopelessness dissolves when I know they need a safe place to rest and safe food to eat.I knew someone out there knew what was necessary, yet it seems everyone would be against us if they knew we had no home. They just tell people we are camping this summer.

 
At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said "self righteous jerk with a badge",

Well, here is a thing, if those police drive poor away from place, they are not a righteous but wicked, so better "Self Wicked Jerk with a badge is correct." Righteous leave poor in peace or seek check/ability to help poor if they are in power to do so. But they drive poor away from place because poor do not had any place (as long poor stay a place, a place that not had owner or a owner do care and let poor stay at thier place) are not righteous, even self rightoues, but wicked is right word.

 
At 2:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any one of us can become homeless. No matter the economic strata. Situations can flip at any time.

Thanks for your blog and thanks for giving people an opportunity to learn, share and speak.

All the best to you all.

 

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