Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Importance of the Car Cover

There are two classes of homelessness, with car and without car. Without car is hard, very hard. I don't recommend it to anyone. If you are homeless and without a car, my best advice to you is couch surf. Stay with your friends until you can get a car. Sell anything you have to get a car. It is best if the car runs, but running is not essential as long as it is small enough to push. The car can be in any condition, damaged, new, old, used, stinky, cruddy, rusty. Who cares? It is a car. I don't even care if you can drive. Get a car.

If you can't drive, you're going to want to fix that. That's for another time, though.

A car is shelter. A car is a place to sleep. A car is a mobile storage unit. There is no other device that will do as much for you, short of ending your homelessness. But a car, on its own, is not enough. If you sleep in your car in a city, you will meet with local law enforcement. There is nothing quite so unpleasant to wake up to as the sound of a baton hitting a window beside your head. Take it from one who knows by experience.

To provide for concealment, get yourself a car cover. Cover the car and while no one is looking slip up under the edge, open the door as far as you are able, slip into the car, close the door and go to sleep. Whack, whack, whack. What the hell? Meet your local sheriff.

It isn't quite enough to have the car and to use the car cover. Car covers have a nasty habit of being blown about by wind, and you can easily be uncovered as you sleep. An even bigger complicating problem is that car covers attract car thieves. Your car will be an even bigger target for thieves because of your necessary choice of parking locations. To deal with this problem you will need to tie the cover down at four points, front and rear bumper, and both sides. I usually send a line underneath the car (by attaching a weight to the line and tossing it under) and tie the sides of the car cover to itself. This procedure makes it more difficult to get into the car, but if thieves or police come, you will have warning and time to compose yourself before you have to face the problem.

Car Thieves
There is a combat element to homelessness, but as every martial artist you ask will tell you, the best way to win a fight is not to be in the fight. Car thieves are easy to deal with, if you understand the psychology of thievery. Thieves will be attracted to a covered car, because they will believe that it is more valuable than the average vehicle. After all, the owner is taking good care of it. The thief will approach, leery of police, and to a lesser extent worried about being observed by citizens. He will begin trying to remove the cover, and you will hear the commotion. Adrenaline will course through your body, and you may be tempted to yell. Don't.

Be patient. Be sure it is not a cop. Look through the cover, to the extent you can. Search for glints that would reveal a badge. Look for the beam of a flashlight. Look for the red and blue strobes that reveal a police vehicle. Look for these things, because police require different tactics.

Now, when you are sure it is a thief, lean on the horn. The thief, terrified by the unfamiliar will retreat. In all my years in a car, I only had one thief return for a second try. They all ran away, and only one came back. That one did not return after a second blast of the horn. This plan works for several reasons. One is that the loudness of a car horn attracts unwanted (for the thief) attention that a car alarm never brings. People are looking out their windows, getting angry. The thief imagines that soon they will be coming out of their houses, calling the police, making noise complaints. His imagination isn't even focused. He just knows that he didn't plan this, and for a criminal any unplanned event is frightening. If you had yelled instead, he might have continued to attack. A thief may be well prepared for a fight. He may even welcome the chance to mug you. He never considered the possibility that a horn would sound though, and that scares him, because he has no plan. He runs.

Now the police are another matter entirely. One thing you definitely do not want to do is present a police officer with an unfamiliar and frightening situation. Police are dangerous, and they are trained to press the attack forward when confronted with novel problems. Novel equals criminal in the mind of a police officer. Don't scare them.

Once you are certain it is a police officer, you need to establish communications. Ask them to identify themselves. Who's out there? They'll tell you it's the cops. Placate them. Let them know they have nothing to fear. Tell them what you are doing. Okay. Give me a minute. I need to put some shoes on. Okay, I'm opening the door now. Okay, I'm coming out. This is going to be a bit unpleasant for awhile. They're going to ask you what you were doing. They're going to tell you that you can't do that. They're going to require you to move on. Be submissive. Don't argue. Don't tell them much. Tell them your girlfriend, or boyfriend, kicked you out and you haven't figured out where to go yet. If it doesn't fly, don't worry too much about it.

They're going to want to search your car. My advice is not to consent to the search. If you have anything even vaguely illegal, weapons, drugs, whatever, do not consent to a search, but I advise you not to consent on general principles. Remember, too, that it is not unknown for a police officer to plant evidence. It's harder for them to do that if you don't consent to the search. The fourth amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Trust me, they do not have a warrant. You may worry that they could charge you with sleeping in your car. Tell them you weren't sleeping, they came along and made that impossible. You were meditating. In any case, it is a law used to give the police power. I have spoken with city attorneys in several cities and emailed several more around the country. Every one said that they do not prosecute people on the basis of that law. For awhile I asked police to charge me because I wanted to challenge the law on human rights grounds, and each time the police said they preferred to let me off with a warning. The danger of these municipal ordinances is that they empower the police to threaten the homeless. They do not empower them to prosecute the homeless. Know that and you take their power away.


At 1:30 AM, Blogger Noorster said...

This looks interesting...
Keep posting!

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Marke said...

A car cover seems like a lot of trouble to me. The desired result is concealment, right? I have a van, and I'm considering blacking out/covering all the windows in the back so that the van cannot be looked into. A curtain or covering of some sort could then be installed between the cab and the cargo area. Voila. Complete concealment. Or am I missing part of your point about the car cover?

I too, have been awakened be the police while sleeping in my van. I was in such a deep sleep at the time! And it was cold outside! It made me so mad. Who was I hurting? I was next to a city park!

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Marke said...

A question. You mentioned having talked to a number of attorneys about the rights of the homeless and those living in their cars. How does one go about asking for that type of information? I mean, do you say, "Look, I'm living in my car and I want to know what legal rights I have in this city?" Or are you a bit more concealed about the matter?

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Hi Marke,

On your first question, you've already got a van so your methods are most appropriate. I will be writing a post on the advantages of one kind of vehicle over another. The downside of blacking or curtaining windows is that people will suspect that the vehicle is occupied. The car cover succeeds as a more complete deception.

On your second question, I was pretty bold about it. I went down to city hall, said I wanted to see the prosecutor, told him I was a long term resident of his city, and demanded to know why living in my car was a criminal act in the city. (It was in the code as a misdemeanor, which is a crime, as opposed to an infraction like a parking ticket.) He said all muni codes were misdemeanors, they just were, but that unless there were extraordinary circumstances he would never prosecute the code. Having received that answer I asked elsewhere and found that the similar codes across the country are rarely, if ever, brought to prosecution.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Road Warrior said...

What about sleeping in your car during the daytime? I see people do that all the time in their cars at the park, and no one ever seems to bother them.

Would it be feasible sleep 4 hours at one park in the morning, have lunch, follow leads, sleep another 4 hours at a different park in the late afternoon, then go to a library until 11pm, followed by coffee at a 24 hour diner until the next morning?

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Road Warrior,

Not to put too fine a point on it but that sounds bad to me. Broken sleep is almost as bad as no sleep, and cops are perfectly happy to harrass the homeless during the day. Sleeping exposed to view simply sucks. Don't believe me? Just try it.

At 12:50 AM, Blogger temac said...

I read your book this evening; it's quite entertaining and articulate. I'm pleased your readers are generous enough to share their comments. It's gratifying that people admit they're surprised -- perhaps as much by you as anything else.

Those who partially break with society are not necessarily partially crazy, partially high, partially stupid, or partially destructive. They may just be exploring a part of themselves or society that is underlooked.

You define invisibility, or perhaps dignity, as a precondition for sustainable homelessness. Some people might be intrigued by this, others by thinking about where the line lies for them, or how to expand that line.

Others may want to know if someone is crossing it, and maybe even what to do. Unfortunately, most of us lack the courage to know the homeless: as members, friends, missionaries, or even observers. So I'd anticipate your thoughts on this.

Have you considered a publisher? One approach might to decide if you want to make money or do outreach. Then again, maybe such things don't matter until you're ready to get the book to print.

On a personal note, I beat you to the punch by living in my car for about a month or so while at school, but didn't pull it off as well. What I remember was cramped knees (they still seem to hurt), fear of my windows fogging up, fear of robbers, and of course fear of the cops.

It's interesting that after rapping away up one cop suggested driving to the marina, where he said his buddies didn't care if you slept. The problem is that I later suggested this to somebody who ended robbed at gunpoint. Funny the cops weren't worried too much about that.

The other detestable thing was caseing neighborhoods, and sleeping late enough and getting up early enough to try to avoid suspicion. Catching up later on the lawn at during the day was mixed. It felt good (warmth, free) and bad (exposed, paranoid).

You are of course, totally correct about needing access to a gym. Aside from physical discomfort and sleep deprivation, being homeless and not having access to a gym seems like the royal road to hell.

Eventually, I can't say if it was visibility or not -- but the paranoia, knees, cops, and squealing rubber at the marina at 2am wore me out. I ended sleeping at night in the laundry room at my grandparents run down house for a few months.

I didn't want questions or support, just the ability to sleep under a roof for while. They were generous enough to provide this. I think they were able to create space in a way that would be contradictory to the high expectations of most family members.

As you've pointed out, it's not easy to sleep on somebody else's couch. Maybe it's sort of like the rich man's version of the shelter -- any imbalance of power is difficult to endure without enlightenment.

Unfortunately, the closest I've ever gotten to the latter is a righteous desire for our president not to end up with another "four more years".

Hey, where's the damn cops when you need 'em? (sigh)

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Chelsea said...

I can definitely see how having a car would make homelessness much more bearable. Do you know of any organizations that might take a car to give to a homeless person? I have an old Buick that isn't much to look at, but it's watertight, so it would be adequate shelter, and the engine is good enough to at least get around town in. I'd love for someone in need to be able to make use of it, rather than just sending it to the scrapyard.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I'm not an expert on organized charities. All the charity I offer is direct, person to person. In this way I am assured that the people I intend to help get the assistance I offer, and I avoid having those people humiliated or insulted by the institutions administrating the charity. It may be more difficult to give this way, but I can practice the credo suggested by Hippocrates, "First, do no harm."

At 8:00 AM, Blogger PowerON! said...

After read this one about a car cover, I decide to purchase one from Wal-Mart for 20 bucks.

I thought it would be difficult to try get in my car with the cover. How fortunately, it's bit loose and I mange to get in as practice.

I have thought of park at the fancy apartment with gate. I had to drive and pretend to be one of guests as I drive around to look for good spot where nobody would bother me. It works.

For more than a week since I have done that, I went to several different apartment with gates. It seems lot less risk than the apartment without gate.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Glen Earthling said...

An idea...

I'd suggest that you attatch two long cords to the edges of the cover where they pass the doors. These can then be thrown under to the other side of the car and, once entry achieved, pulled in through the oppersite door or window and pulled taught. Doing so should provide entry or exit from either side.

A bounus in using a car cover is if the authourities do insist on moving you on you can take the cover with you and it can be erected elswhere as a normal tarp/basha shelter.

Other neat uses of the tarp type cover, tie one end to vehicle the other to nearby post/tree/roadsign providing a nice shelter where one can cook hot food over a soda can alcohol stove or similar.

At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, very interesting!

At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The van solution is the best. You just get tinting for side and rear windows. You can see out. They can't see in. A tension curtain rod and a couple pieces of fabric strecth across behind the front seats. You can close them with velcro. Open them when driving. Works great. Complete privacy!

At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem to be on the right track, surviving on the edge between secure existence and dismal angst. Really is appreciated when you have a place to squat, a pot to piss in, warm sleep, and your own place in the sun.

Projecting lines of described perameters seem to converge on a somewhat upscale version of a mere car to live in. You do need to keep the car legal and pay for cell phone and TV batteries, right? Next step would possibly be:

1) arrangement with someone, maybe with some payment, for you to park your car off the street and have access to a toilet; maybe even 2) getting paid by someone to park your car someplace and do security for them.

Hey, you could start a business of renting car parking space in a lot at the edge of town, maybe 30'X 20', and include a key to a shower and toilet. From there, you could start renting storage spaces. I assume there would be safety in a community of bums, even druggies and winoes.


At 5:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so excellent.In trying to figure out how to live homeless, I've not solved the question of getting a driver's license when you don't have an address. Virginia, where I live, for example, requires licenses be sent to a real address. No PO boxes allowed. How do you handle this?

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It takes a $50 membership and an additional $60, but Costco sells a car cover that's incredibly durable in the wind, very water resistant and lets in absolutely no light.

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm considering going homeless in my Honda Element. The back seats can be folded up on the inside so that they cover the side windows. Someone could still see in through the back window, but it seems like this might work almost as well as a car cover (it won't attract as much attention, that's for sure). What do you think? Also, what about putting a tint on the side and back windows so they're harder to see through?

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Camouflage solutions are never perfect. Whatever works for you is good enough for me. One thing I dislike about living in an uncovered vehicle is that you do not have the advantage of time against the police. If you get rousted, you will have to deal with them immediately, from a cold start. The same is true for dealing with criminals. When your vehicle is covered and the cover is tightly secured, you have the luxury to compose yourself while they fuss and futz with the covering.

Tint and blacking out are tried and true strategies. You should do what works for you. What worked best for me was a cover.

At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am thankful that I have my VW Bus and not a car! I have made it into a virtual camper. There are no seats in it beside the driver and passenger side seats which leaves ample room in the back for living space. I have a futon pad in the back and am fortunate enough to have a friend that made me a frame for it, so there is a good foot of space to store things underneath my bed. I have also mounted cute curtains on the back windows that I made out of material from the thrift store. I have tons of little touches that make it look like a real room. The best invention ever is hanging locker pockets that you will see at department stores around “back to school” time. I was fortunate enough to pick up nearly a dozen of them out of the trash when all the seniors were graduating my junior year. They are great for storage purposes and come in so many vibrant colors. (I know – not necessary, but I take pride in the appearance of my home)

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Jen said...

This comment is a little late but the post has got me wondering about the law here in Ontario. I am extremely cheap and don't like paying for hotels. Whenever we have gone on trips we always roll out the sleeping bag in the back of our hatchback and sleep in the car. We've only been bothered by the cops once when in a parking lot off a highway. When we told them we were sleeping because we couldn't drive anymore they had no problem and went on their way. It probably helps that we have tinted windows.

At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this was written a few years ago but in Washington state they can search your car with probable cause which can be anything. Times are tough, and if you get nasty police they will arrest you, and I am not being paranoid, for any little thing. Because you did not consent to the search. Homeland security you know...

At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for Washington's probable cause thing, it's not completely true that they can always get away with it. Especially if you have nothing illegal.
Just about any state has many ways for cops to get around a warrant, and the easiest way is to impound your car--they have to inventory everything, then.
If you refuse to consent to a search, the best way is to recite the 4th amendment. This tactic scares them, and they don't want to search someone who knows their rights.

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was told by my traveling grandparents that you can park your mobile homes in walmarts, and they even provide you with water and electricity for free. If you can pass a van a mobile home, you have a perfectly legal and convenient place to park.

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wish I'd read this before ditching the car. Considered sleeping in the trunk; could access it through the back seat, but just slept (somewhat) covered up so to passerby's it might look like a sloppy backseat. I had read that sleeping in vehicles was illegal. Never understood why, better in a car, than on the streets. Having a different state's plates, registered in daughters name, too much stress. Car cover might have helped.

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great site, the best yet.
Car covers work great, if you buy a slightly over-sized one, you can close the doors on it to keep it in place. Also painting a number on the rear of the cover makes it less desirable to thieves.

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great website, brilliant. Society is brutal and thoughtless. We live in draconian times and many people are fooled believing that being a slave to a consumer society is a life. Fortunately, my wife and I have been able to live independently from the "machine" for years now. I will never EVER go back to working for a company. Those of you who have the courage to say no to RENT and no to the robotic consumer society are true heroes. The key to survival in ANY situation is THINKING. Analyze your problem, plan a solution. Know your resources and limitations. Use your intelligence. Be patient and clever. I believe a clever, thinking person can prosper in just about any situation. This website is clever and a tool and I think it is absolutely brilliant and inspiring. Maybe when this hollow, fake society of greedy jerks collapses, only the independent souls will be left standing???

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a third shift job, and a third shift life, luckily, that plays in my sleeping favour BIG time, as I can sleep near any public place and not draw attention to my vehicle.
Afterall, there's nothing unusual about a vehicle amoung many during normal bisnuss hours eh?

At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just became homeless and have a car! i have a job, so that has nothing to do with it! friday nov. 24 my fianee and i are going to texas to got a better life! my family has disowened me for what reason i don't know! i was staying at my brothers house until a week ago! but he was being abusive to his wife so we left! my whole family does drugs and i dont want any part of that! so i am going to texas where my fiancee's family lives so we can have a better life. so please pray for us thanks

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not homeless, in fact, I make quite a bit of money. Nonetheless, being a very frugal person, I've discovered the massive benefits of sleeping in the car when I'm away from home. Recently I've become sort of a homeless-on-the-weekend kind of guy. Even in my same metro region, I sometimes will be partying 40 miles from home, and then have an activity in the same area the next day.

Since learning to sleep in the car, my life is so much more free. One of my major worries: "where will I sleep if I go to xxx", or, "how much driving back and forth to my house will I have to do if I go to xxx", is now a non-issue.

I figured out that a $30 camping cot fits in my economy car hatchback, smooths out all the odd angles, and creates a nice flat bed. A camping towel, a little shampo, and a sink works great for swabbing down (you don't need to wash with soap except once every week or two unless you get real dirty in your activities). Just last week I partied it up, slept in the car, cleaned up at whole foods, put on a suit and tie, and went to a formal ball. My friends thought I was nuts when I told them where I slept, but it saved me 2 hours and 60 miles of driving.

The main problem so far has been the sunlight comming in at 10am. It gets so bright, and so hot that it is difficult to sleep, and once it wakes you, its hard to get back to sleep. I definatly am going to get a thick car cover.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Kris said...

Thanks so much for this site and it's content. I am a traveling artist, though, not homeless. The tips you have here are going to help me save a ton of money on hotels. Also, due to tensions in my marriage, and me being close to bankruptcy, i may end up living in a car in the near future. It is comforting to me at a time like this, that this information is out there. After a 20 year relationship, i would not have the first idea of how to be homeless. I am intelligent, sober, and good hearted, so it alarms me to learn that sleeping in a car is illegal in many states. Cripes! I know this much, if I do end up staying in my home and marriage, I will be looking into advocating for the homeless in our area. God bless all who have to live this way.

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This site is excellent. I have never had to use the strategies here - but they are very freeing to know about. In regards to sleeping in a vehicle, I do know that state run rest areas will legally allow you to "rest" in your vehicle for up to 8 hours (in many states) - and they often have websites which say that this is permitted. You can usually find rest area regulations on the Dept. of Transportation website for your state. This wouldn't be practical, obviously, unless you happened to be traveling from one location to another, but I thought I would mention it.

At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Costco Car Covers Revisited - June, 2007

Indeed Costco Car Covers are quite good and can be had for $30. That's right, $30.

True, you need a membership which is $50, but perhaps you can talk someone in to helping you out by asking them to buy the cover for you. Obviously you would have have a good judge of character to entrust your $30 bucks to someone, but it's an option. You can get a cheap hot dog at most Costco's too -- some of which are outside and they don't ask to see you card to buy a dog.

At 5:30 PM, Blogger rasa said...

A good mini-teardrop trailor is something to invest in if you have a few bucks when you hit the road. They are very small, but efficient and your shelter problems are solved if you have one.

At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a medical condition called sleep apnea. It means I need electrical power to run my apnea machine at night while I sleep. I shopped around and found that the POWERPACK-400 PLUS XANTREX 400 WATT – 120 VAC / 60 Hz EMERGENCY POWER PACK WITH DUAL AC OUTLETS AND AIR COMPRESSOR works great. I slept in my mini-van and the power supply provided all the power I needed. Then I recharged it via my mini-van's cigarette lighter. Since I drive almost daily, the van charges the power supply. It also runs my wireless laptop, small tv, and radio. I can thus be virtually "off the grid".

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I've just started reading your blog, and i'm in AWE! I've always wanted to escape from "the system," but didn't know that one can not only survive, but thrive on homelessness!

I'm 18 and still living at home, but I would love to just escape the constraints of society for a year or two.

I was wondering if you could possibly give a list of, I don't know, the "Top 10 Cities to be Homeless In!" or something? I want to travel out of my element, and would like a place that isn't so hard against the homeless.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

There ain't no such place. You're asking how to get to Emerald City, and I wish there was a Yellow Brick Road, but there isn't. Even Seattle, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz persecute visible homeless people mercilessly. The only way to avoid persecution is to avoid being identified as homeless. Hence, my advice in this blog is intended to teach you how to be homeless without looking homeless.

As I've said before, this is not a lifestyle for the lazy. It takes a lot of work to be homeless in a reasonably comfortable way. You also need certain resources. You need a car, a car cover, a gym membership, a cell phone, a storage unit, and a mailbox. You need to look good, even better than you need to look as just an average person living in an average way. You need a source of income. If you fail to meet any of these requirements, you will pay a heavy toll for it. I know. I've paid the toll.

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

Regarding a car cover vs. tinting/blacking out windows, I have been living in my Subaru Wagon and used limo tint (make sure it says 2% on it) to conceal my living space. I then took some picture hanging hardware and safety pinned it to a blanket. The picture hanging hardware fits nicely between the molding and roof of the interior of my car which creates a drape across the driver and passenger seat. Also, I have found parking about half way from the entrance of 24 hour groceries stores has not been a problem, especially at Wal-Marts. Great information. Thanks!

At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking the teardrop trailer would be good for camping or hunting in wilderness type of areas, but assuming we are dealing with cities, it seems that would be too conspicuous and you wouldn't be able to blend in diverse locations which would make it very difficult to spread out your locations each night to some place new...

At 10:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest sleeping at colleges during the day, ive done it as a student many times waiting in between clases and no one ever bothers you even with constant police cameras and drive-bys.

At 11:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First and foremost I vary much enjoy this blog and find it educational and witty. Also what if instead of a car cover, you get a car with the capability to access the trunk from both the inside of the car and the trunk- that way(in theory) you can sleep in your trunk and not be disturbed. I was thinking of becoming a homeless savent so the topic interests me. What are your thoughts on this matter?


At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for this site, it's really helpful.

I'm fifteen and have my learners permit, and am homeless half the time. I've sold a lot of stuff and have money for a car. Do you think it's worth the risk to buy one and live in it without a license or risk the streets until I'm sixteen?

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

There is no question about it. If you are homeless and you can get a car, get one. If you have a choice not to be homeless, and you are 15 years old, then you should live indoors, but if the cost is too high then you must have that car.

At 12:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about the window fog? nobody has made mention of it and it's the most obvious sign of someone sleeping in a car! the hell with the car cover, way to much trouble. i got a job but i'm breaking up with my girlfriend and moving, quickly, out of our apartment. i just need some breathing room for a month so i can get the hell out of dodge. got plenty of spaces to crash in mind, just concerned how you can avoid the fog?

At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've lived for years in an RV, two different ones actually. The first was large, the second smallish, and if there's a #3 it'll be a box van (like a U Haul van) or a cargo van.
In any car living situation, one of the simplest and best things you can do to improve your standard of living is to have decent blackout. If it's not obvious it's blackout, so much the better.
Many people who aren't sleeping in their vehicles have some sort of blackout of the cargo area because theives won't break into a vehicle unless they can see something worth stealing.
Additionally, the police are supposed to have more than just a vague suspicion before they come rap on your door. I know some car campers who don't answer the door for the cops. Me, I do - if your registrations in order, you appear not to be drugged out, etc you can
usually get away with just saying 'yes sir officer, I'll move right along'
Some things I've found will help improve your interactions with the cops:
1. Be neat, which is a pain in a small vehicle, but is good in lots of ways, including that it tells the police you're probably not somebody who'se going to be a problem. And really all the cop wants to do is move the problem people out of their own area into somebody elses.
2. Demonstrate that you're a person. The 'boyfriend/girlfriend threw me out' story, told with a little self irony if your acting is up to it, is good. Having a positive looking possession visible from wherever you get out ( a piece of hobby/craft work, a guitar, a neatly arranged bookshelf) will make you a human in the cop's eyes.
This really works - I had a piece of a model RR in my RV at one point. Cop came by, and actually ended up talking to me about model RR's for a while. At the end of the exchange I said to him 'look, I don't want to cause problems, I don't want to be parking where the neighbors call in complaints (he'd told me this was why I was getting rousted), I want to live in this long enough to get my life back together' - and he responded by telling me aobut 4-5 bomber parking spots.
Ironicly the first one he told me about was totally off, though, and that's the one I tried - next morning I got rousted by same cop.
Never seen an apologetic cop before - but the second parking spot he pointed out turned out to be great, I was there for months.

At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with your comments about car cover vs. other blackout - car covers are more conspicuous.
If you have some resources, anything you can do to make your vehicle look like anything but a homeless person's car is good. I was lucky, I'd bought my van from a plumber and it still had the guy's name on it.
Check your blackout - turn whatever lights you have on, then get out of the vehicle and close the blackout back up. I originally used a blanket, thinking that'd be good and opaque - nope, car lit up like a xmas tree. I ended up using that insulation that looks like bubble wrap, sandwiched between two pieces of cloth. And even that the spots I'd sewed it showed through until I dabbed paint on them.

At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re sleeping in daytime -
while you're not likely to get roistered in daytime in car, you definitely can't sleep in the park.
Which is usually too bad. I had a nighttime cabbie job, I discovered sleeping outside in the daytime is really delightful. I did eventually find a spot I could go to, in a park but not the normal public use part.
But you can go to any mall parking lot and sleep all day if you have a decent looking car and decent blackout.
The part that sucks about car living on the night shift is just that if you do get busted by cops you get to deal with it when they're not set up for it, the 'services' for homeless aren't going to be any use, etc.

At 1:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you DO get some money, consider very carefully creating a safety cushion.
If your car gets towed, it's a pain in the neck. If your home gets towed, it's a disaster. So the vehicle MUST keep going.
Having the money for a car repair, towing bill, etc. IS the difference between having a fun, funky bohemian lifestyle and a humiliating, stressful, debilitating situation.

Being homeless is not a single experience, it's a spectrum.
At one extreme is the newly homeless (hence unskilled) person who is suddenly penniless
At the other extreme are grandad and gramma fulltimers in their 150,000$ RV.
As a rent or mortgage paying person you are caught in a system that WILL keep you in a fixed economic place. Right now I'm temporarily caught in that, renting a $420 a month crappy room while I get the RV back going.
Right now the RV is stored on some land, I'm paying a farmer a little to park it. That's FAR better than losing it.
I've done some work (suprise! I'm a computer engineer, not a bum!) and as soon as that check comes I'll have enough 'cushion' to feel confident going back on the road.
At that point the $420 I spend on rent becomes the roughtly $200 I spend on gas and supplies. The other money becomes mine, to create a safety net. Once I have enough safety net, I can decide to work or not.

At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did live in a car at one stage when my marriage broke up. Instead of staying in the city I found a free camp site with incredible views of the ocean. But even then it was hard for that time.

For a bit I tried sleeping in a tent, but found the wildlife in Australia and midwinter a bit much to cope with (wombats attacked and the tent in the end!) so I slept in the car.

What concerns me with the advice is ventilation. We should all know that children and pets can die and be cooked alive if locked in a hot car for only a short while. Even at night a car will retain heat or there is only so much air inside and soon a secured car will fog up.

Have you advice on this important aspect of car living! Potentially, a car cover might make it worse!

>>>alternate cover tip<<<
On blacking out windows. I recently came up with an idea of cutting thin budget EVA sleeping mats to the exact size of my back windows. These press fit on the inside and completely cover and help insulate the windows form the inside. Easy to take down and roll up or use as pillows!

Unfortunately, the ones I have are blue, but if you could find a black or grey material, the car would look as if it simply had a very dark tint. At night it would look a lot more stealthy than a cover and cheaper too!

>>>fake security tip<<<
You can get or make a fake alarm indicator...a flashing LED with a battery will last a long time, mounted on your dash, the car will look as if it has some protection...just a thought...thieves may pick an easier target.

>>>homeless philosophy<<<
This is an interesting blog but I am not sure that 'homelessness' should be romanticized. It can be hard and the rewards slim if any and difficult to come back from.

However, there are times, often unexpectedly where the ability to move and simply live is vital.

>>>change of scene<<<
If you have a working car and maybe you are not working, I would suggest that getting out of urban environments may offer some rewards. According to the real estate agents, my beach front view was worth $2M, so why not try a change of scene. At least it is an appropriate place to be more self reliant, just watch out for wildlife and go out of season!

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am building my box truck now. I had a school bus in San Francisco for 8 years but times were different then. I got a Pensky rental truck and it's almost invisible, only 3 years old. Stealthy as all hell, and way more roomy than a car or van. Yea, you got to have vents- I am starting with 4 on the roof and one on the floor. email me at

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intersting. I'm presently homeless (looking into a monthly room, though) and live in a city ~10 mi from a state forest.

This leads me to wonder when 2 wheels are better than 4. For the state forest thing, it's WAY easier to conceal the presence of a bike/motorcycle than a car. Also, it's cheaper to get a motorcycle to and from where you need to be in the daytime.

Also, it's not technically illegal to sleep in the forest unless you do it more than so many times in a row (just vary your campsite.)

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

I remembered someone was concerned about the car windows fogging up while you sleep.

I havent tried it, but I recieved a formula for keeping the windshield clean and prevents steam and frost.

Mix 3 parts glycerine, 1 part alcohol, 2 parts water.

Shake and clean your windows as normal.

Hope this works!

At 10:46 AM, Blogger RomeRun said...

I still don't see a need for the cover, I only tinted my glasses with mirror/chrome type and can sleep anywhere without being noticed.

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, i am not sure when this was posted, but i too have a few tips. i was forced out in my car because of job loss, and hot having steady (or much) income for a while. plus i got into debt and couldnt pay the bills, so for a second time, i decided to live in my car (did this 3 years ago, almost to the date.) it took me a few days to finda good place to be, but i have found that grocery stores that DONT have private security are the best way to go....24 hour if you can find it. park kinda in the back, but not too far that you park it to go somewhere else with friends for a few days. my 4 door sedan isnt too flashy (so it doesnt spark attention), nor beat up (as an old non-op would look like). my car has tinted windows, and i dotn use a car cover. what i use is a sun visor for the dash. that will block in the light from lamps in the front, tinted windows for the back, and i am usually concealed in darkness that way.

save your water bottles at night, because you dont want to have to get up in the cold and find a urinal at 2 in the morning. and leave a window just barely cracked, this will eliminate moisture (from breath) and hence fogginess. and heat is always a key turn away.

if you listen to the radio, just dont leave it on when you fall asleep. it will drain the battery and you will have to ask for a jump in the morning (i plan on getting a small jumpbox to prevent this).

i usually have cereal for breakfast. just get an icebox and fill it with ice, and you can have cold foods available for a few days. milk, juice, lunchmeats, etc. and then i have non-perishables in a small storage bin. my trunk is my kitchen. that leaves room in the back seat for bedding, and my gym bag, which brings me to my next point.

get a gym membership, if you have access to it. yeah, there are incredibly attractive people there, and you look like the crumb at the bottom of the chips bag. but to keep good hygiene, and shave and etc. you need a gym membership. most are open early and late, so you can shower before work and/or after. if you couldnt shower, who would want to hire you?

have a storage unit, smallest you can to minimize cost. this is where youwill put tools (for the car), clothes, maybe some extra food, hobby stuff (i have golf clubs and fishin poles in mine), adn maybe some furniture and dishes you want to save for when you do get into a place. and just be honest with the keeper (he will figure it out soon enough) and he is usually easy about access via payment.

sell everything you dont need or want to save to make money. when i moved in with my gf for 6 months, i ended up selling all my appliances. that was just to pay rent. when i still didnt have a good job, and couldnt pay the rent to her for the start of the month, thats whhen i had to move out.

for communication, have a p.o. box (just put any previous address for residence...tehy wont check), a phone, and a library card for internet access.

and the last things i can reccomend, dont reveal your status as way of passersby. this is a time when you find out who your friends are. as of right now, i dont have many. but it just makes you more of a man, or woman. my father doesnt even know. but dont take my advice, my father is hundreds of miles away, so what could he do had he known? and the last thing i can reccomend, is dont place bets, dont date (really, its not a priority), and invest in thermal socks and sweaters. it gets cold in the winter. good luck, and good health!

At 10:47 PM, Blogger RomeRun said...

talking about fog, if you tint your windows as chrome/mirror, nobody will see the fog on them. For the front doors and windshield, covering them with sun shades should be good enough, imo.

To increase space of your car(home), get a cargo box attaching on the roof rack. Very handy. I use it as my closet to keep stuffs away from my bed.

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

im not sure if its mentioned in here but im in a hurry and wanted people to know. some walmarts that are open 24 hours a day allow you to park overnight in the back of the parking lot. im homeless at the moment in spokane, wa and ive had no troubles with car thieves or police.

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

man, washington. thats a hard place to be living in a car. im in southern cali, so it is so-so at night. but i lived in seattle for 3 years, and winters are terrible. i feel ya on that one. as for walmarts, it depends on which ones you go to, what city you are in. a lot of the older walmarts have lower class of people roaming around. and i dont like foot traffic, and i dont like a security officer in a little white prius going by my car every 15 minutes. i was disturbed by one and made it the last time. and i always park where i know there will not be cars around me. so in case anything were to happen, i can drive away forward quickly. but we all have our spots. it needs to be what works out for each. i am in my third month, and expect it to be a cold winter this year (we didnt really have a hot summer). chances are, it will be spring before i get debt free and back into a place. or later winter. not everyone can do this. it takes a lot out of you mentally, and it really tests you. but if you fight thru it and do what you obligated yourself to do, there will be dawn on the horizon.
btw, this is a great forum. keep it going.----j. in so cal

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its illegal to sleep in a vehicle if thats true how come them don't bother motorhomes or truckers.
I was using my ford excursion to haul autos, I put a mattress in it so i could sleep. Hotels are just to expensive for one night.
I was never bothered once.

At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in Washington State about 8 yrs ago and I got kicked out of my place and had to live in my car for 2 months. I tried the park and rides first and didnt have a problem until one day security knocked on my window but I told them I was waiting for a bus to go to work. I did find a place later at the Ramada Inn and just park in their parking lot. nobody bothered me. There was a gas station with and outside side restroom that I could sponge bath and change clothes before going to work. I also parked in a plaza and dir some cooking on my coleman stove. In Seattle you can go to the food bank once a week. Also had an inverter to charge things. Not having a place to call home is really stressful. If you have to live in your car keep it clean and orderly. Maybe some totes to keep prying eyes from seeing your business. I would have stayed in my car longer but it broke down and that is not good. Ended up moving out of state to visit a friend. I wonder about a space heater if its a small one to keep warm. Good luck

At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo, thank you, and keep it up. We are out there!

One comment, if I had tinting I would prefer that to a car cover, then again I don't have too much experience (just a few months).

One advantage S.U.V.'s have, they are roomier (you can stretch out in the non-driver area), and higher up (less visability to people passing. Makes up for the poor mileage.

If you don't have tinting or a car cover, you can make a "fort" using your bags and whatever covering you might have, a sheet, sleeping pads, cardboard boxes. You can't sit up while you sleep, but looks even more "normal". This might draw attention from theives though. Coupled with parking in a residential area though it's ok.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger wiseman01 said...

well i really like this blog. i have been wokin up before to the tap of the still scares me to this day. i think it is WRONG for the police to harass you like that. what if u don't have a car cover? do u have to use one? tinted windows helps and u could use a cover to cover you up right?

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dec.20, 2008 -If your vehicle looks like it could belong to a business, invest in a decal for the side. Business vans are naturally there for legitimate reasons, right? Especially ones that provide 24hr sevices, like emergency plumbers. Staples makes custom signage for small businesses, including vehicle decals.

Also, if you're in a position to choose what type of vehicle you own, aim for something naturally windowless like a cube van.

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone living in a car had issues with moisture?

I lived in the back of a pick-up truck with a cab for a long time. One of my biggest issues was with condensation building up on the windows and roof of the cap while I slept. Everything got soggy, so I started sleeping with the cap windows open which was louder and colder.

I looked into portable dehumidifiers, but they all took way too much electricity to run regularly.

At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a gym membership, great idea for taking showers.
and make a little box with a flashing red led lit, excellent.
also getting busienss decals on side of vehicle.....great idea

I am presently living out of my 1989 VW van, fold out bed and fold out table. I rent park spot at a friends rural land for $100 a month, dirt cheap! plus access to wireless internet and inside shower.
A good idea to find a cheap place to park, is find a batchelor pad looking for roomates and tell em they can save some money on rent by renting you a spot to park becasue you don't need a bed room, just house privileges. This way, you save on rent.
Believe me, I am 41 and single. With years of batchelor pad experience, they all want to save some dollars and renting to you cheap will lower their monthly bills. They'll take whatever they can get to shave a little off the bills here and there. Craigslist is a good place to find batchelor pads needing some extra money.
I'm an internet fiend anyways, so all I need is internet access and my van and I am happy.
I bought light plastic drawers at wal mart for cheap to store my clothes and other things.
I don't need to cook on a raw food diet. Breakfast is whole wheat bread with sliced banana, honey and peanutbutter sandwiches with oats sticking to the bread from the peanutbutter....mmmm
Lunch is a cheeze sandwich. Cheeze usually stays good for some time.
Dinner might be a can of fresh tuna and mayo with sliced tomato or cucumber..... a raw food diet is way more excellent than the best food in greese infested food from a resturant, so you will feel healthier than with cooked food, so you won't need any cooking equipement.
Walmarts are excellent for sleeping at over night.
I boulder Co, I was awakened by the cops and they said there is a one night stay rule. I presented myself respectably and humbly and they saw I was not a druggie or a normal homeless dude and were quite polite. Politeness and charm can go a long way with cops. Be friendly and they will be friendly back almost always.
if you have a place to stay and can plug in, a heat blanket does wonders in the winter, snug as a bug in a rug!

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Using a car cover would not allow any air flow into the car which would seem stifling to me. Probably it would be fine in the winter but if you're in a warmer climate it would make the interior a lot warmer and stuffier.

Small clip on fans that plug into a cars adapter are great when having to sleep in the car in warmer climates. Some models rotate and have a high or low setting.

I've had it blowing on me for a few hours at a time with no effect at all on my car battery. I've also used this same fan to help dry my hair while I'm in my car and it worked good for that too!

A friend of mine with a van says she bought a new car battery that she keeps in the back of her van for the sole purpose of running something electrical. She says there is a simple hookup that you buy to plug into and that device hooks up to the battery wires. She gets this battery recharged for free as needed at the auto parts store she purchased it at.

This is a great blog, keep it going!

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

A possible tip I wanted to share: I heard that you can build your own portable solar panel and take it around with you for camping, putting out on top of your van/car, etc., to have your own source of solar energy!

There are several sites on the internet that sell the directions on how to build it and you can read the reviews on which ones are considered better and easier to build.

At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

for the purposes of a homeless person, how much a month would a car cost with registration & insurance?

can a person buy a car for $200 or $300 & with insurance & registrn pay $50 a mos.?

i would think u only need a car to get from point a to point b, right?

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Registration fees are usually based on the cost of the vehicle. Insurance is based on where you live, your driving record, and how much coverage you buy. The importance of a car is not to get you from point A to point B, but to shelter you and a few critical possessions.

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent five years in a minivan. To make a long story short, I own two homes now and have a place in my heart for everyone I see with that "look" I saw my rear view mirror.

At 6:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suppose a cop came across a van that looked empty and has only a long box (less than 6" high) in it that looked like a tool box and some tools lying around on the van floor. Obviously no one's in it right? He plays his torch around and leaves... BUT Mr. or Ms. Stealth is actually sleeping in comfort on a custom mattress inside the box, there is ventilation via a concealed pipe that goes to a roof vent that spins with the wind and there is a hole in the floor that has a filter on it. The rest of the floor of the van is actually a false floor and personal gear is stored under it. In the morning he or she gets out of the box and drives off, putting away the 9" LCD TV that s/he had been watching inside with his earphones. Oh and s/he knew the cop was there all the time because s/he watched him via CCD pinhole cameras that were hidden inside the van facing outwards. One was buried in the back of the van passenger seat, another was behind a false panel up near the roof. I suggest that this is true stealth. Empty but not empty. You would not be bothered or woken up because there is nothing there.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

lol. Too elaborate for me, but I would admire the setup.

At 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One poster referenced “romanticizing” being homeless, there has to be a sense of freedom should you choose or forced to do this. Getting off the grid & just saying no to the MAN. Everyone has their hand outreached for your money.

As far as parking for a night, how about the public’s parking lot of a police station itself? Why would a patrol car cruise that area? You should be able to be left alone for one night there right under their nose.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Parking in the police lot has to be a joke. The irony may be lost on some readers, so heads up.

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Hawaii it is illegal to sleep in the car period! The police harassed me about taking an hours nap in a public parking lot during the day before going to my destination. Basically if you close your eyes, in the car for more than a minute, they consider it illegal camping.

At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leaning on the horn would be a problem for me since I would be living in a separate space in the back of my truck. Namely, this space would be the bed and shell cover. I suppose I could rig a remote for the horn, but that's another story.

At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how did u afford paying car insurance.. i pay 175 a month right now... thanks!

At 9:23 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Good grief! Do you have a DUI, or are you insuring a diamond studded ferrari? Anyhow, even at that level, compare the cost to rent of an apartment. How did I pay? By gaining employment. How will you pay? Well, people all over the world employ all sorts of strategies. Take your pick. ;)

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of automotive stores carry kits which allow you to wire in a 2nd battery which will charge while the vehicle is running but will disconnect when the ignition is killed so you don't drain your cranking battery.

At 10:13 PM, Blogger vagabond said...

A cargo van works well. I have a beat up 93 Astro van and I just park on any street and have never been bothered. I don't park in the same place every night.
I blacked out the windows with a dark tint (bought from Walmart)and made some square black curtains out of black canvass (bought from Walmart) and then velcro them up when I want to sleep.I built a wooden platform in the back and attached it and a single air mattress fits there. I fit across the back also and I' a 5'7" woman. I have a portable toilet in there and I'm set.It does get cold, but I bundle up. I have a auto battery re-charger ($35 at Walmart) that I plug things into instead of using my cigarette lighter.A van is better than a car.Believe me.Cargo vans are pretty cheap.

At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you so much for this very well written and authoritative site. I have been out of work for nine months and I'm facing homelessness within a month or two, so that's why I'm here.

My question is, what does one do if their car is unpaid for? I have a three year old car and if I'll just two payments behind on it, they threaten repossession. How can I keep my car without winding up being sought for grand theft if I just take off and don't make my payments? What if I don't have an income or can't get a job that pays enough to allow me to continue making my payments?

At 5:26 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I'm not a lawyer, but I actually know the answer to this question. You are in legal possession of your car, regardless of whether you are delinquent on your payments. You cannot be charged with theft of a vehicle you are in legal possession of. However, if they do repossess it, and you climb into their tow yard and take it back, then you have stolen the car and you can go to jail. So, as long as you keep the car far far away from any location that they might think to find it in, you are golden. Otherwise, well, you could get a rude surprise from the repo man.

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

Something I learned recenlty: Cops can NOT harass people sleeping in their cars at Wal-Mart Stores. Per WAL MART! It is privately owned property and they welcome truckers and travelers. Bonus - 24 Hour Superstores have bathrooms available at any time and I found one with a hair salon that would wash my hair for $2. That plus a "bird bath" at the bathroom sink and I felt 100% new!

At 3:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been "on the road" for about 20 years and think I have things down pretty good for my end of it. Staying at Walmart or any grocery store, where employes work the night shift and park in front of the store is good. Denny's Restaurant is good too, if you park far enough back to where the management dosen't consider you taking customer space. Hospital and casino parking areas are good. I have a membership at a local health club for showers and a membership with Costco. A cell phone and P.O. Box will help. I stand at busy intersections with a traffic light with a sign that reads, "Tell me off for $1.00". I get good results with it, as the light changes quickly, as there is traffic behind them. :-) I also go to the public libraries at times, find a good chair with a book, for a nap. They are also good for your Internet needs. Automatic payment is good for credit card payments. I use a small single burner propane stove for cooking and get my small bottles for the stove at Home Depot. A 4 season sleeping bag for my truck, that has a camper shell on the back is a big help. I bought a 3/8" thick sheet of plywood for the back to sleep on, so not to feel the truck bed ridges, while sleeping. I closed the back windows with aluminum foil, to keep the sun out, to make it darker at night and to keep prying eyes away. I also use a air filled foam matress to place my sleeping bag on. I also go to "Day old bakerys" for rolls in the morning with my coffee, that I boil on the truck's tailgate. I hope that this might help someone out in the open air. :-)

At 3:43 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Sounds like you've got the drill down cold.

At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Car sleeper said...

I slept in my car while I was down in Maryland for the summer and there was no affordable hotel rooms available for the night. Didn't have car cover, curtains or any tint on my windows. No one ever woke me up. So, may be I got lucky or may be it is legal to sleep in a car in Maryland!!! Who knows!

At 6:48 AM, Blogger RomeRun said...

I don't like sleeping in the public parking lot like Walmart at all. It's too noticeable, but if it's 24hr Walmart is might be okay, but you can't sleep there everyday...

The best place for me is on the street parking in the resident area. Your car will blend in with other resident cars. It also very quiet, no car running around at night, and if you are lucky, there might be free wifi available.

At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just graduated from college and I must say I have a lot of experience sleeping in cars. I worked my way through school with 3 jobs while sleeping in my 4 door Honda Accord. I am a smaller guy so it was a lot easier for me to lay down in the backseat. I agree with everyone on the gym membership plus it helps set up a routine.

Originally I tried using blankets to black out the the windows but the cops caught on to that. What worked for me was buying some of the big black construction paper that kids use to put their presentations and projects on.
(you can find them at Wal-mart).

After I bought a couple of them I cut them out in the perfect shape of the windows and would tape them up at night, and then take them down during the day. They did a really good job of keeping the light out without drawing a lot of attention to the car.

Also in the colder months if planning on changing in the morning, I would always put the clothes I was going to wear to the under me so my body heat would warm it up when I slept.

Also, I know this probably sounds bad but I also sometimes keep a cooler in my car and I will usually buy cereal but usually do not have enough for milk, let alone keeping it cold for an extended period of time. What I typically do is stop by a local coffee shop while it is busy in the morning while caring an empty cup with a lid on it and I would fill it to the top with creamer (but making it look like I was just adding it to my coffee) and walk out. If it is busy enough they will usually not care or notice. Then I just put the cup in the cooler with ice and it usually lasts almost a day or so.

I just got offered a nice job since graduation and I will be starting law school in the fall so I am hoping that these are the last couple of months I will have to stay in my car, it has been on and off now for a couple of years.

Hope those tips help!

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought a used work van, a white Ford Econoline for $600 bucks. I stayed in it and lived in it for a year. No major problems. I just threw a blanket over the back window. A few times (maybe 3 times outta 365) the cops knocked and just checked to see what was going on. I told them the truth and everything was OK.

I also met a guy that had an old sailboat. He moored/anchored it some ways out and took a small raft in. This way he avoided any moorage fees.

Gotta get creative.

I would take a van over a car ANYDAY! And a decent work van can be had for cheap.

Whatever works for each person is a good idea.

At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I may be looking at being homeless soon. I'm lucky because I outright own my Jeep Cherokee and am only 5'3'', the seats fold down and give me plenty of room. Anyways, my real question is that I have a cat that I cannot image ever being separated from. I live at the coast in Oregon so it's not that it gets very hot, but I would still be concerned about leaving him in my vehicle for 8 hours while I'm at work, even with the windows cracked...and if they are cracked, what if he meows and someone hears him?

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

You definitely can't keep a cat in a small vehicle all day long. I've seen it done with vans with ceiling vents, and I've seen it done with RV's, but any other accommodation is likely to result in a cooked kitty, and even if it doesn't cook, it's likely to be an unhappy critter.

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Showers. Look into truck stops. Most large truck stops offer showers. They usually provide the towel. These facilities are not very expensive. No need to join a gym. Truckers won't look down on you.
12-Volt equipment. Check out large truck stop stores. They have all kinds of things from small refrigerators to electric blankets. I do recommend getting that second battery that someone suggested. However (Big However) don't use a standard car battery. They are not designed for this type of use. RV stores may have batteries designed for this. If not, check out marine supply stores. Tell them you will use this battery as a "house" battery, not a "starting" battery.
Toilet facilities. This can be a challenge. Two solutions. For urine get a liquid laundry detergent bottle and cut out the pour spout. This gives you a great, non-leakying, container that is easier to use than a water bottle. Easy to dump the next day.
To do the do get a five gallon bucket with lid from Home Depot or free from a restaurant if you ask nicely. Line it with a thick plastic trash bag. Inside this bag put a Piddle Pad (not the brand name). This is a pad dog owners use to train dogs. It will soak up liquid. When you are done you just tie the bag in a knot and dump it in the closest dumpster.
Hope these tips help you fly under that radar. Happy trails. Stormy

At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i drive lots need good mileage and comfortable sleep. best compromise? jeep all the hard surfaces created condensation everything wet. car condensation stays on window but less room.considering scion xb thoughts?is it big enough?oh yes must be cheap and not more then a few years old for reliability and the huge miles i throw every month. suggestions.i am on my 3rd year but still not there.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Every vehicle is a compromise and everyone has an opinion. The most comfortable car for me of all time was a 1976 Honda Civic hatchback. I swear there was more room inside that car than there was outside. The thing had almost 200000 miles on it before I couldn't fix it anymore. I miss the older cars.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Lordkylo said...

Two months sleeping in my toyota tercel car in San Francisco's land's end near Ocean Beach-- Not bad. I was able to unattach the back seat and use it as a bed after shifting arounf the passger seat.

Quickly discovered that no one bothers you directly under street lights. Key to finding restrooms are to stay near parks that have public restrooms; but only make one trip during the evening then re locate to safe sleeping area. I like to park on steep hills because people are repelled to exercise and it's better to sacrifice a little more 'laying down' comfort for privacy comfort. I would think that privacy is most essential for relaxation.

Have had many cops see me and just drive by!! It seems like they understand and know I'm good. This city is the place to fall back on apparently.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Lordkylo said...

Two months sleeping in my toyota tercel car in San Francisco's land's end near Ocean Beach-- Not bad. I was able to unattach the back seat and use it as a bed after shifting arounf the passger seat.

Quickly discovered that no one bothers you directly under street lights. Key to finding restrooms are to stay near parks that have public restrooms; but only make one trip during the evening then re locate to safe sleeping area. I like to park on steep hills because people are repelled to exercise and it's better to sacrifice a little more 'laying down' comfort for privacy comfort. I would think that privacy is most essential for relaxation.

Have had many cops see me and just drive by!! It seems like they understand and know I'm good. This city is the place to fall back on apparently.

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous coolrayfruge said...

I've learned living in a motor home in Flagstaff AZ, that most stores like Walmart will let you camp over night in there parking lots, even though there is a no over night camping sign. you just have to park way down at the far end of the parking lot away from the store that is less used by customers.
Most stores will let you get away with it one or two nights then you have to move.
Just don't leave a mess in their parking lots or hassle customers by pan handling.
these things cause them to complain and run homeless people off.
Also if you keep a eye out and report any criminal activity's going on around their place of business.
They may see it beneficial to having you around at night and not hassle you at all.
Its good to build good relations with the store owners and people in your community.
Some are nice people and will help you out if they can without you having to beg for help.

It only takes one bad apple to ruin it and make it hard for the rest of us.

Also if you park outside of city limits your less likely to be hassled by the cops,look for a free camp ground areas out in the woods.
Also if your staying in a parking lot at night and your windows are tented covered, put a for sale sign on your vehicle asking a really high price for it.don't leave your real number or name unless your really trying to sell it.Its common for people to leave cars their trying to sell in parking lots.

At 4:47 AM, Anonymous Talha Khan said...

Wow...what a site! I am preparing for my remaining 2 years of Undergrad school in NM, and was delighted to find this site. The System is so brutal that it won't allow people to sleep in their own cars. Land of Freedom: what a joke. I was hoping to hear from the site admin about this Walmart parking idea. Would you say it's safer to park inside an apartment complex and blend in with other cars than parking in Walmart? Finally, even if I do pay someone monthly and rent a parking spot am I not still illegal by sleeping in my car? So does it make any safer to pay for a parking spot? Which one is the best option to stay away from trouble...

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I argue never to pay for parking. It brings you into places with lots of eyes, and that means lots of exposure. It's a waste of money, as there are plenty of free places to park. It just doesn't work.

It is unsafe to park in apartment complexes. Tenants and managers resent it and are watching for it. Don't do it unless the space is yours.

Walmart seems to be safe. Their security doesn't seem to move people on. They've got a corporate policy to allow RV's and that seems to bleed over into the car living set.

Good luck. Never park in the same place more than two nights in a row.

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I and a few others, have noticed a homeless person in her early years guessing 19 or 20 yrs of age, who sleeps in her car in the parking lot for ride sharing in a small town in Florida, close to the freeway. I thought it was very clever on her part.

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I and a few others, have noticed a homeless person in her early years guessing 19 or 20 yrs of age, who sleeps in her car in the parking lot for ride sharing in a small town in Florida, close to the freeway. I thought it was very clever on her part.

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to sleep in my pontiac sunfire on road trips to the casino. by pulling down the back seat and sleeping with my head in the trunk and feet extended underneath blankets. To the best of my knowledge, nobody ever saw me. The parking garage was always good as well as rest stops. Without sleeping yet driving home, I pulled off an exit and considered home depot parking lot to sleep. Genius came and I parked in a hotel parking lot and slept until morning. Strange cars in a hotel parking lot, no one would notice, as well most guests would be sleeping too. Sorry if im wordy.

At 12:18 AM, Anonymous G said...


rest stops are a bad idea. the cops hate
anyone who rests at a rest stop. I know by personal
experience. when they pull into the lot they will
not give you a pass. they will want to check you
for warrants, car insurance,search your car
especially if the rest stop if a speed trap in the first place!
rest stop= no no


At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

I unfortunately have been homeless about 2 months now. I was approached by police because I had those windshield shades on the sides of my car for privacy, and someone in the neighborhood called police. I didn't get a ticket or anything. But I installed window tint on my windows (it is relatively CHEAP and easy to do). I used the DARKEST window tint so nobody can see in at all. So far I've had no problems.
But staying warm at night IS a problem sometimes, even in Texas!!

At 11:31 PM, Anonymous William said...

I'm drawn to adventure. I'm going to do this by choice. I have a job and an old Mercedes. The three friends I told think I'm mad. I want to try a different way of living. I'm looking for a camper to pull around. It will be my home. A car can be a home.

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

Hey Mr. Mobile Homemaker - if you still follow this wonderful blog you created I would greatly appreciate a little advice as in a little over a month I'm looking at my first experiences with car living. It will be my 7th (!) experience with homelessness though - in the past I have either done the shelter thing, slept rough (outdoors) or couch surfed when I had the option available to me. For the first time I will have a vehicle albeit not a very good one - a 1992 ford taurus sedan with about 180k miles on it. In general I'm looking forward to the experience (shelter living is absolutely horrid and exactly as you have outlined - to anyone considering it I hope you don't mind having all of your stuff stolen, getting sick and possibly with something very serious like tuberculosis, and having the staff preach to you for hours about how its all your fault since your soul isn't right with Jesus, or even worse make you listen to a come to jesus sermon just to get a meal ticket) but being new to it I have a few quick questions that I couldn't find answers to elsewhere in your blog. I will be breaking in my car for living in the dead of January in Wisconsin - my question has to deal with the temperatures I will encounter. Keeping myself warm will not be a problem - I've conducted some field tests very recently and through layering i can stay quite warm. My question is keeping other things from freezing, like water for drinking - any suggestions? Right now the best solution I've come up with is to sleep with my cooler between my legs - won't be comfy but having water in liquid form would be worth it imo.

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous MiniCargoVan said...

Great blog. I know the post is a few years old, but if you're still checking comments, any thoughts about my van?

I've got an old cargo mini van painted black (pretty new paint) and the side rear windows were painted black on the inside so it looks like very dark tint. I've put some cheap removable 5% tint on the rear window and a dark curtain for extra cover, to block view by a cops flashlight. You can't see that a curtain is there from the outside. The front window has a refective sun visor and between the cab and back I hung some peg board.

My goal is for it to look like a contruction or service vehicle. I don't think visible curtains are a good idea, because that says "live in". I'm planning on making a solid aluminum gate between the cab and the back, similar to how some cargo cans have the cargo area secure. This would make it look more like a service vehicle and would allow for complete concealment from the front. Also, it would allow for some security in case the front windows were broken into. The cops may flash their light into the front cab and just see what seems to be an empty utility vehicle. Maybe add some props, like an old paint brush, box of nails and clip board to leave on the front seat? Something that says "contruction" but only worth a few bucks, so not worth breaking in for. I think the goal here is to play the part of what people want to see and they will buy it. If people walking by or cops can make sense of the vehicle easily, they will not expect someone to be sleeping inside.

At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is fascinating, thanks for the time you've put into this. This will become more and more common.

At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Tim said...

Hello, Tim here. I'm currently looking at homelessness in a car. I haven't read through everything yet, but I get the feeling the question hasn't been answered. In many states, NJ included, you can't get your license or register a vehicle without a valid physical address. It's not fair, but what can you do. The solution I came across is that a local UPS store offers a post box with it's address as a physical address (not P.O.). I just received my license using this address and will also be registering and insuring my car with this address. Hope that helps some people.

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For heat, never use a Coleman heater without proper ventilation. Asphyxiation = death!

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Lanthir said...

Walmart parking lots are your friend! You leave your car unattended there for weeks and not get towed or ticketed, and you can sleep there at night unbothered.
Just find the nearest 24-hour Walmart and park sort of on the edge of the lot and far from the door.

If that fails, park as near as you can to a main highway, or numbered state route. If the cops come around, tell them you're on your way home from far out of town, and were so tired you were afraid you'd fall asleep at the wheel.
The ones that took the job for the power trip won't give a damn, but every now and again you'll get one that actually wants to keep people safe, and they'll just tell you to move along as soon as you feel up to and you can grab another hour or two of sleep.

...Also, highway rest areas! You'll very seldom be bothered there.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Parking choices, yours and many others, are covered in my article on parking. With regard to Walmart, it is true that at most you can stay unhassled, but there are some cities that are just outright mean, and they don't allow the Walmart policy. One such city is Marina, California. The moral of that story is to understand the specific terrain, and not just go on a general principle. With parking, particularly, a good selection is the difference between misery and comfort.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I converted an old horse trailer into a house by fixing insulation with tie wire and chicken wire. I insulated the back doors on top and parked in my daughters driveway. I could sleep and store my things safely. I even moved around the city at one point.
Prior I lived in my car with a cat and a dog. I put a black sheet over my bedding in the day so nobody wondered about the blankets and stuff. I parked at a apartment complex and left during the day. Some hotels leave doors open on public rest rooms where I did my dishes and used the shower in the jaquisi room.
I always parked in places with low public visability, yet lots of people. I agree the car is vital.
I would sell that horse trailer home it is in Idaho. near Payette, ragg368 at g ml

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Okay, one modified horse trailer is on offer in Payette, Idaho. Sounds sweet enough. Contact the owner for details at ragg368 AT gmail DOT com. (When did I become Craig's list? lol)

This post is dated 4/25/2011.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger byzantym said...

I was fired from my job three months ago and that on top of being 48 with only a high-school education is leaving me on the bottom of every stack of applications out there so far.

Right after I lost my job, I "invested" a big chunk of my savings into paying off my car loan. Not only did that ensure I wouldn't get my car repo'd but I was able to knock down my insurance premium. The downside to this is instead of having enough savings to keep my place another year, it's down to three months.

I'm down to the point where I have to decide whether to sell my car (it's a 2007 with low miles, so would fetch a good price) and "buy" more time or keep the car and "bug out" with what money I have left.

While you mention keeping the registration on a car current, there are other costs that can lose you your vehicle if they're not addressed: most states, including mine, have mandatory insurance liability requirements to even renew your registration. While liability coverage can be obtained for around $50 bucks-a-month, that's if you've been accident and ticket-free for five years or more. Also, you need to maintain a bank account in order to pay your premiums (most companies won't accept cash). You could run into problems if you don't provide them with an verifiable address too. Credit checks can hike your rates if you have bad (or worse-no) credit history. They could hike your rates just for being unemployed. Losing your insurance also makes you a karma-magnet for cops. Murphy's Law will catch up you and in some cities they'll tow your car and then it's gone for auction if you can't afford the fees to get it out again.

Also, states like Pennsylvania, which require annual safety and emissions tests can doom your ride if they find it needs repairs. Expired inspection stickers are like free passes to cops looking for an easy ticket you can't get out of. Usually they'll give you a "fix it ticket" at first, but the longer you wait, the more chance the next time you're hassled for sleeping in your car you'll be sleeping on the dry spot where it was towed from next time.

So keep in mind that while having a car is an advantage to being homeless, maintaining it can be problematic. I'd rather hold on to the money and rough-it than buy a 500.00 hulk the cops will just tow to the salvage yard with all your stuff left inside.

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

@ byzantym

I agree with everything you said except the conclusion. There is a certain cost to maintaining a car, but the cost is worth it. It is the most valuable tool in your kit. Even a junker will do as long as it stays legal, and when you can't pass emissions, you scrap it and buy another. The cops won't tow a legal vehicle just for looking bad. Keep it moving and it will stay yours.

Liability insurance is a must. My insurance companies have always been willing to insure my vehicles if I tell them where it is most often parked. If you have trouble with them, remember that lying is an important survival skill. I usually tell them I keep it near my mailbox since that is a center of my activities. I haven't had a problem.

A checking account is a vital tool too, but if you've checked out of financial services, money orders will serve when paying insurance companies. You can also buy rechargable credit cards that will satisfy these payment needs.

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

If your car is going to have plates on it, in some states (CO)
it has to be running and pass emmission test

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Good info, but remember, nothing is forbidden unless you are caught.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog and am amused that there are so much wisdom in it!
But one issue that fails my understanding is for car cover; It seems an overblown measure. I know many cars that have folddown back seats just connected to trunk space. For such cars, I don't see any advantage for all bothering of car cover, am I missing something here?
Again your writing and thoughts are much appreciated.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Yeah, I think you're missing something. You want complete privacy to change clothes. Being below the window line doesn't cut it. You also want complete privacy for sleep. Sleep is dangerous and you gain time to react to invasions and threats by having cover. If you still don't see the advantage, I don't know what else to add.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Sasha Methew said...

I follow your blog for a long time and must tell you that your posts always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers. Keep it up.

At 4:46 PM, Anonymous MiniCargoVan said...

This is an update to my post from a few months ago about living in a mini cargo van.

It's been about 5 months that I have been living (really just sleeping) in my mini cargo van. I haven't been bothered by anyone yet, so no break ins and no police checking it out. No one can see inside the back, so that is probably been left alone. Also, I park in a mixed residential and industrial area. I actually have become pretty comfortable sleeping in it. Strangely, it feels normal, although I still want to get my own place in a few months.

I have been able to save some money and have got some momentum doing this, that I would not have had if I had money tied up in an apartment deposit and paying rent. It's a temporary sacrifice to improve on the future. There is also more urgency in getting things done when living this way. If all goes well, I'll have up to $8-10k by the fall. Another positive side effect has been losing weight. I don't snack at night anymore and I have to go to the gym to shower.

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Joe said...

But where in the city can an individual get away with using such a thing as the car cover? I have no idea as to where.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Then read the article on Parking. Basically, you can use a car cover just about anywhere in the city, however there are good and bad parking spots.

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

Hello, I'm Mary

This site truly makes me feel apart of something big,
When you have this kind of thought and then you find others doing the same, then you kinda realize your not crazy!
I have been thinking about this for a while and this site just sealed the deal.
My only delema is: I have 3 dogs & 2 cats, the dogs can come but I will have to find homes for the cats:( .
It takes a strong,independent and motivated kind of person to do this, I'am one of those people.I see as a challenge, a test to see how much one can endure.

So here is my contribution to this blog.

1) A portable folding toilet.
2) A folding bucket (hygene)
3) A 0 degree sleeping bag or 2.
4) Rinseless bodywash & shampoo.
5) First aid kit
6) A self starter (has an outlet)

Just a few ideas I'm going to use.
I figure with the money I save not paying rent I can clear my debt, find a cheeper apt and pay the rent for the whole year.
I'll keep you posted!
Thanks, Mary.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in my 15 year old jeep (soft top) for a over a year. I learned a few things about not attracting attention to my living in it.

First, I lived lean of "stuff". I often saw people being harassed by police because their cars were filled with junk and the person looked like they were living in the car. My minimal clothing, shoes and hygiene supplies were kept in small exposed storage area behind the back seat but covered by a black fleece blanket which made them "invisible" by day or night. To add respectability to my vehicles appearance, I kept it clean and sometimes hung a single cleaners bag over a dress shirt (like i actually used the cleaners!)

My jeep was black and the plastic windows on the soft top were more opaque than real glass so visibility in was a little fuzzy, just enough to make nothing discernable. At night i would unroll and stretch the black fleece across the entire back seat, fasten it to the back of the front seat and let the rest drop to the ground. Basically it created an L-shape cover and I slept under it, completely unobservable. As testament to how effective this was I have dozens of stories.

Here is a brief one: I am sleeping in the parking lot at 24 hour Denny's restaurant about 3am under the parking light. 2 spaces away the cops are harassing a guy living in his beat up trash heaped car and they never knew i was there.

I lived on 99 cent pound cake, coffee, and a gallon of gas per week for 6 months. The last half of this adventure I found work at night which meant I slept in the day parked in parks, a well chosen street, or even just the right parking space at a grocery store parking lot. Reading in the bookstore became a favorite pastime and all day dollar movies.

As mentioned by an earlier contributor, its easier to be homeless if you have a car and do it right. From that experience, I would do it again because I ended up saving a shitload of money by saving on rent.

At 12:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm currently going to school in CO and living with my parents. The only problem I they live 60 miles from the college so I stay the night on Monday and Wednesday to save a trip with gas being a huge expense for me. I have a hatchback and park in a street without street lights and put a black blanket over me to conceal myself. I've done I for about a semester and a half with nobody noticing (at least police) and I use the university gym to clean up. I think because I park my car in the same area frequently and don't go to sleep until about 11:30pm I haven't been noticed. I also get up at 6am so I'm not in the back when the sun's up. I have been packing lunches from my house in a cooler to last me the days I'm down here and I think this will help me a lot with expenses. I think another reason I haven't been caught is that it's a college town and I'm fairly secretive about my sleeping in my car. Great blog. Keep it up!

At 12:46 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

You are making mistakes and they are likely to catch up with you. You should not park in the same place night after night. Read my article on parking. You should park in a well lit area or you are inviting criminals. A blanket is also no substitute for a car cover. I speak as one who has made all these mistakes.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger ndogg34 said...

Sleeping in your car in winter?

I started living in my car when I found a new job 100 miles from where I live. Was planning on relocating, but when my car broke down, finding a replacement put me in a position where I can't really afford an apartment in my new town and my car payment. It's been 3 months now, sleeping in my car during the week, driving "home" to my girlfriend on the weekends. I have a pretty good setup, Grand Prix with tinted windows providing room and some privacy, up at 4:30 to head to the gym (lost 30 lbs so far!), 7-4 job, back to the gym in the afternoon and a dollar menu restaurant for dinner. At night (anywhere from 6 to 10), I park in a Meijer parking lot. Well-lit, low traffic. Despite signs warning monitoring for "criminal activity", I have yet to be approached by anyone, police or otherwise.

So the time is coming soon to make a decision. Do I find some studio apartment and spend every minute worrying about making ends meet, or tough out the winter in my car? Friends and family are all against the idea, but aside from beating the cold, I can't see any other downside. The only question is, how? I have multiple blankets, long johns, coat, hat. It's gotten down to 30ºF at night, and I've been fine with shorts, a t-shirt, and a blanket. Just wondering how much more I'll need compared to what I have to make it through a Michigan winter.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I've never lived homeless in a place that got much below freezing in the winter. My best advice on beating the cold can be found in my article Staying Warm. Check the table of contents on the right.

At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Blog...keep it going, because with the economy as it is and not getting any better,there surely will be more homeless indiviuals; It could be me! Of course,it could be anyone out there in so-called normal society.
In Lubbock,Texas they have a shelter area the called Tent City, but the City Council had the Zoning Enforcer vote on shutting-it down. However, there a movement by some churchs to Appeal that ILL-Minded deceision. Previously, this City Council also stop Regular Citizens from going to feed the Homeless at the George Mchon Library; and further this City Council passed an Orderance to make it illegal for homeless people to sleep across the street or on the Library's premise. Brutally insensitive. Oh bad they spent Million to Build a State of the Art Animal-Shelter (Dog-Pound)less than 2yrs. ago...Go Figure...Animal are worth more than people in Lubbock,Texas.

At 10:30 PM, Blogger Free Spirit said...

Haven't read ALL of the posts but:

A cop knocked on my car door after I had been sleeping at a particular legal parking spot for a few weeks. I am betting it was a local who called them.

STRAIGHT UP I asked him if it was legal to sleep in my car. Cop said NO. This is for Philadelphia PA. I never pursued the issue any further.

His main concern was that my car looked like a P.O.S.!! He was right and that's why I think a local called him.
It was a Dodge Caravan and I had ENTIRELY duck taped the area where the side/sliding door window was SUPPOSED to be!
The duck tape was actually close to the color of the car!
But a REAL issue was that my inspection sticker was expired. AND it was obvious my rat trap could NEVER pass inspection!
He didn't give me a ticket or ANYTHING! Just a warning to have the car inspected OR not be SEEN parked in the area!
I think that's pretty good for a Philly Cop encounter don't you?

It was the beginning of this economic depression/recession/cluster-fk we are now in so that may have been worth something.

ANYWAY I retreated to WALMART parking lot in south philly and "lived" there for TWO YEARS!!

For the record, WALMARTS especially SUPER-WALMARTS country wide are basically OK with you sleeping in their parking lots!

This was a parking lot ADJACENT to the Walmart parking area but unused for some reason.
After 2 years being there, some company began construction and I had to leave.

There were at least 7 people in campers/vans/cars living in that area. ALSO many truck drivers parked their rigs there and slept for days to weeks at a time.

NEVER had even ONE problem with a cop - though I did get a ticket for an unregistered/un-inspected vehicle. I took care of that legality and never had another cop related problem!

The cops actually had to respond to domestic squabbles occurring in those tractor trailer rigs too!

It can be done!
My suggestion is to get the LARGEST van you can afford!
Some kind of mobile home/trailer/vehicle is even better.

INSURANCE for a mobile home/vehicle can be had for only $120 or so per year!

Most mobile living units will have INDESPENSABLE bath and kitchen facilities.

SORRY this is so long but YES! If you are homeless or soon to be/in danger of, GET and KEEP a car - the bigger the better!

AND, I have NEVER had problems with cops because of sleeping on the street in my car!

A WALMART parking lot is just a MUCH better way to go - OBVIOUSLY!

At 10:48 PM, Blogger Free Spirit said...

A few additions.

I used BLACK cheap flannel windows to 'black out' the side/passenger and driver windows.

From a distance the car looked empty.

I also used one of those silvery/aluminum looking sun shades to block the front window (looks 'normal') and back as well.
I used cut and shaped pieces of this silvery window shade material to cover the rest of the van's side windows as well - reflecting sunlight AWAY while allowing SOME daylight in as well.

I even got a large TARP to cover and insulate (blankets underneath) the roof, protecting it from the sun and enabling rain to drain away from window areas which also enabled me to keep windows open.

At this point they must have KNOWN I was living there!

I also flipped the hatch door open a bit to allow for cool air in the summer.
NEVER had a problem with criminals!

I constructed a way to STRETCH OUT on a 'bed' in the back of my van (personal effects stored underneath).
You won't last long sleeping in a car in the 'sitting' or even 'lying back' position of a typical passenger car seat!

In the winter I hand 'sewed' a 'sleeping bag' consisting of a bout 10 blankets - on top, bottom, and foot area.
I was TOASTY WARM in even the KOLDEST weather in that 'sleeping bag' - and slept BUCK NAKED!!

I could easily sleep all day and/or all night in that van - food, water and an oil change container to piss in was all I needed!

Just wished I had a BIGGER VAN or mobile home/vehicle!

It's VERY doable, but best when you have a spot you can park in for an extended stay.

Another loong ass post...


At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read most of this thread, good stuff. So if I am repeating something, sorry. All colleges are surrounded by rentals and cars everywhere. If you can find a spot to park, no one will notice another car, as long as you don't look like your living in it. I used to be a mailman and saw lots of people camping in their vehicles, I knew every car and nook and crevice. I love the idea of renting a parking spot from someone with bathroom privleges, solves lots of issues. I bought a van with hi-top, turned it into a camper, tinted windows, all the bells and whistles for 7.5K. This may seem like a lot, but over the course of a couple of years it wasn't too bad. It is my Mancave and my dogs think that I bought it for them. Light seepage is the main issue, still working on that, but it beats sleeping on the ground, couch, or back seat. I have never been bothered when I travel, parked on side roads, parking lots, even spent a night parked in front of a police station in Denver, right under their noses. Security wasn't an issue that night. Stay safe and don't forget your multi-vitamins.

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 60 yrs old, I am forced to be homeless for the first time. All the postings have been a great deal of help, thanks. But, what about vagrancy? Is there a certain amount of money that you must have on you? Or is proof of a savings/checking account enough, all be it small? You have my thanks inadvance.

At 1:51 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I've never been asked to prove I had money. Vagrancy isn't a lack of currency. It's a lack of housing. I've never had this question before. Having no money is, itself, a problem. I don't think the cops will make that problem their issue.

At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CSL - much depends on the city you are in.

You will not be the only 60 year old out there though!

I met a guy living in his van who was in his EIGHTIES!

He was saving money from his retirement/disability checks.

He kept company with some young girlies too in that van!
AND he actually had a FIRE in his van which TOTALLY consumed it!
He had to make a mad survival escape, him and his girlfriend!
Right there in the Walmart parking lot too!
A big messy DANGEROUS auto fire!!

And STILL we lived on in that Walmart Shopping lot!

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sitting in my 2006 nissa altima at a sam's club parking lot right now reading this blog. First of all I want to thank whoever started this blog, and all the HUMANS that have contributed to it. Onne of my biggest fears has always been the fear of being "homeless". I have suffered through years of miserable relationships beecause of this fear. Even now, I am in this position because I have a complete nutcase for a girlfriend.when I first pulled into this parking lot tonight I felt total hoplessness. But after reading this blog I have hope. And imostly I don't feel so ALONE. There are quite a few motor homes, vans, and cars with HUMANS making themselfs comfortable for the night here. I have no window coverings and I am drinking right now so I put my keys in the trunk. Popped a couple tylonal P.M.'s so hopefully I will be asleep soon. It just feels good to know that its ok to be in a bad spot. Thanks everyone. Goodnight

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: "I'm sitting in my 2006 nissa altima at a sam's club parking lot"

Hang in there! The first night is definitely the hardest!

My first night: It was raining like HELL! I got locked out of my car, had to BREAK the window (accidentally) to get in. I couldn't ask the KOPS for help as I wasn't very "legal", re: automobile papers.
So, I had to rig some rain protection IN THE RAIN, in my Dodge Caravan - as yet NOT ready to sleep in.

NEXT DAY, after duct taping the window, I was caught, at NIGHT, in the worst snow storm of the season! Had to drive WITH A FLAT TIRE a couple of miles to an auto repair place where I camped out that night - waking to about 6 inches of snow all around me!

You are doing better than most - you have A VEHICLE!
DON'T go the "girlfriend" route.
You are on the path of complete independence and FREEDOM!

Stick it out until you are INDEPENDENT and FREE!! You'll be surprised at what you can make happen. Having a girlfriend bail you out sounds nice but it keeps you WEAK! I do NOT envy or respect those who do this. Ultimately, she won't respect you too.

There are actually a number of people who have real estate they'd rather not RENT, per se, but need someone to step in and keep the place for them.
All kinds of situations - houses that are unfit for habitation, houses under going renovation, etc.

I lived in my car for TWO YEARS! One day I was told (falsely) that they were going to start towing vehicles. I called a friend and THAT EVENING, found myself in a LUXURY APARTMENT for two months - like dying and going to heaven! (He had the apt due to a fire in his home, he was back in the home but still had the apt for a few more months).

Afterwards, I got a room here and there for a year and a half and now, recently, I met a person who let me stay in their un-inhabited home for a VERY reasonable cost.
Now I live in an entire HOUSE - by myself!

MAINLY I have to keep the heat bills and other utilities paid right now. He only wants $100 above the basic utilities when the weather eases up, but I plan to do him better than that, and told him so.

It really can get better.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

It seems to me you never found your feet. I'm glad you're in a good place now. Relying on best mates is no more desirable than relying on girlfriends, though. The reality is we are all dependent on others. We live in a social environment. Our definitions of who is pulling their own weight are culturally determined, arbitrary, and often harsh.

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

Can I just recommend one way roads as well. Cars coming from behind you are less likely to see you coming from behind. :)

At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

walmart policy lets rv's park outside overnight , and in my experience cars also , I never had a problem , and since they dont call the cops , even if they see you there on patroll it is private property , and at worst they just ask if you are ok . (in my exp....)

At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

walmart policy lets rv's park outside overnight , and in my experience cars also , I never had a problem , and since they dont call the cops , even if they see you there on patroll it is private property , and at worst they just ask if you are ok . (in my exp....)

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

I'm retired and live in Asia most of the year. When I come to Seattle to visit family I sleep on the street in my minivan. The van is dark colored with tinted glass, and doesn't attract attention. I tossed the middle and rear seats, and put in a comfortable sleeping futon. A sleeping bag and comforter keep me warm or cool as needed. For many months I've parked in a quiet residential side-street in an upscale community near Seattle. If residents notice my van they must assume it belongs to one of the other residents. Perfect! The van gives me great flexibility when I'm in town, and it's stored at a Public Storage facility when I'm abroad. For hygiene and workouts I have a YMCA membership. This is by far the most economical way for me to stay in the Seattle area a few weeks or months at a time.

At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Lexi said...

I may have to resort to living in my car soon. I've read a few articles about it online, so it's not a complete mystery and something I believe I'll be able to pull off until I'm able to move in May. My question is what do I do with my cat? I love her and don't want to leave her behind, even if I could (which is doubtful), but not sure what car life would be like for her. Any suggestions?

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been living in my car for the past month. For the past three weeks, I parked my car at the local hospital garage. Big mistake. Security scared me awake after 2am and asked questions. They told me to move along. I then started parking at the local Home Depot for the past couple of days. It seemed fine until I saw a guy walking around the parking lot watching me pull in. Time to change places again. I'm going to try a new place tonight and see how that works out. A friend told me about the local pool being a cheaper option to the gym for showers. Right now, I do sponge baths at work and where I can find a single stall bathroom. The recent heatwave has made it virtually impossible to keep a cooler for food, but that will change soon.

At 4:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this blog is very inspiring because i felt as if I am the only one facing homelessness. As a matter of fact I found it looking for homeless shelter online but after reviewing those shelter are very stressful. I lost my job several weeks ago earning $3000 a month. My rent is $600 which is not paid yetand my room mate gave me until Dec 15 to leave. I am getting another Job in 2 weeks though paying $600 bi-weekly. Without exposing so much of my desperation I tried to ask for accommodation from friends and relatives but they all seemed reluctant. So the thought of sleeping in my pick-up truck kicked in. So my intention is to get a gym's membership and a storage unit. And then be rolling to Walmart every night and sleep in my truck. The though of doing so was scary but after reading the blog I am in.

At 9:57 AM, Anonymous John said...

Hey, what about sleeping during the day while loitering in public places?

I can work just part of the day while I'm homeless. If I have enough time to sleep during daylight as well, I can just walk around, exercise and otherwise be awake during the night.

Still yet, if have a laptop, I can use it (ideally work on it) as long as the battery lasts, during the night.

At 3:20 AM, Blogger Xtine said...

Hi, Xtine here. I'm wondering if there could be a solution like this: I noticed a lot of cheap land for sale reasonably close to my city, maybe an hour away. If you could purchase an acre or so (this is provided that you can get a loan to do so from a bank or credit union, a relative or perhaps use cash reserves), you could park your car, RV on this land and it would be yours. The mortgage on this piece of land would only be what, between $100 or $200? You can't get kicked off of your own land, right? And you could spend some of your time building yourself your own house, shelter or whatever. Perhaps you could hook up with an old RV someone is getting rid of and spring to get it towed to your land. Or a Yurt. Something. Again, this is for people with at least SOME resources or good credit- something. But it would stop you from getting harrassed, and give you resources like natural materials and a place to set up a permanent campground. I always loved that book and movie My Side Of The Mountain- in it, a kid runs away and builds a kind of tree shelter for himself on his grandfather's land that is in his family's name. This could be the same concept. It's something to think about. The reason I say an acre is to prevent there from being "neighborhood codes" that make it so that you have to build according to standard, and prevent you from living in an RV, Yurt, Tent, Log Cabin or other such arrangement because it would be an "eyesore" for the neighbors. And you could build campfires with impunity- it's YOUR land. You would even have the right to build a fence and post "Keep Out" signs and so forth. Then you could drive back and forth to the city to get work. Nowadays we don't really NEED all the convieniences of a house, we have our phones in our pockets, our laptops are our workstations and we can get the internet from a satelite with a plug in. Everything we need is portable and provided, we just need to stay warm, be protected and take a bath or shower to have the ingredients of life. With land, you could do this and pay so little. I've been thinking of getting an acre and putting an unwanted RV on it just as an affordable getaway spot, so why couldn't a homeless person use it as a permanent shelter?

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

@Xtine: I'm afraid you'll run into about a thousand codes preventing you from doing what you just described, and an acre is very small. Neighbors will see you and they will complain to code enforcement. If you have enough money to accomplish your plan, you don't qualify as homeless, just as looking. That said, it sounds idyllic.

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Fran said...

Someone asked about what to do with their cat when living in their car. I've done this - it's a lifestyle only for a very smart and unique kitty. Cats, unlike dogs, do not lose muscle because of living in tight spaces. The most important thing is to never allow your vehicle to become hot - that can kill any animal. If you park in a place next to sort of "wild" or "park-like" areas (a small town rather than urban areas,) you can let your cat out during the day and she'll be waiting for you if you have a routine schedule. But you must have a "street-smart" kitty to do this. (Rattle the food to call your cat rather than call it's name.) People will merely think your cat is "feral" and ignore it, but have the cat micro-chipped in case it gets picked up by the local pound. Cats prevent mice damage in an RV. Prevent your cat from looking out the window by giving the kitty an "open" kitty carrier and rewarding her for hanging out in it where she can see out but someone can't see her.
If your cat is sweet and you aren't good at training her for this lifestyle, find the kitty a place in a friend's yard (or get her a job as a local "shop cat" at a business?) where you can tend, service and feed her as part of your routine.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was not homeless, but I had a scary thing happen to me.
My husband was drinking and was starting to show signs of becoming violent as he often did, so I sleeked out and left in the car, parked in a public park, laid down on the long seat, cried, and fell asleep only to be woken to an engine. It was the police. I didn't sit up quickly cause I was hoping who ever it was would go away, but then I saw the lights flashing. "Crap" I said to myself, "stay calm".
They tapped on my window, asked me for my license, why I was there etc. I told them the truth, but they said I could not stay there, it is "illegal to park here after the sun goes down". He was really nice and asked if I needed some assistance to get to a woman's shelter or for counseling. he jotted down some information on his card and gave it to me. It was a good experience, they showed they cared a little. Just then the second cop that was walking around my car said something to the first cop. I even had a big can of unopened beer on the floor of the back seat. They told me that was also illegal, it has to be in the trunk (I had a truck, no trunk). I explained that I was upset and I was going to drink it, but decided it was a bad idea, that I needed a clear head. They just said, "good luck to you" and moved on. They didn't take my beer either!
My advice, just be sweet, it is much better to let them think they are awesome even if you think differently. I've found it works with most people. I know I was lucky! After having heard some horrid stories from people and cops. Too bad, they'd have us on their side more if they treated everyone with respect like these cops did.

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about living in my car to save more money. Im nervous to even try tho but I kno if I really want to with all of this info this site has I could do it and be happy with my decision. Thank you all so much for sharing. The world needs more independent and open minded people like us. Thanks again

At 5:30 PM, Blogger moocifer said...

Never been homeless in a car but have slept in mine numerous times, but always in the seat. However, i am very knowledgeable about cold weather sleeping in general, so here are general principles for keeping warm really cold temps, if you are sleeping in the back of your car/van and not in the sea. (seats are quite insulated from convective heat loss, whereas the back of a vehicle/trunk area or floor of a minivan is NOT.) (and who can really sleep in a seat, especially for extended periods).

To comfortably and safely sleep in the back of a van or the back of a car/hatchback, you will want a closed-cell foam camping pad (NOT an air mattress, though a combination air-foam pad like a therma-rest works, but a therma-rest is fragile compared to a simple foam roll) under you as insulation.

If you are dealing with really cold winter temps, 10F down to neg 10 F, you will want two foam pads under you, or two layers of foam pads, each made of two pads gorilla taped next to one another to make one very wide pad, then the layers topping each other to double up the depth of insulation/padding.

For blankets you can use a down comforter, doubled up\, or a *continuous filament polyester* filled comforter and the thickish side. That alone will carry you to 30F. You want something that is light so that it doesn't weigh you down. Two comforters should carry you down to the -10 F to positivie 10F range, if doubled up (making four layers)

If you have one, a single-width or daybed width futon is probably better, but this is an uncommon item and takes up a lot of space.

A hoodie is excellent sleeping gear in the cold weather, as is a down vest over that. At really cold temps you may want a knit cap as well. Wear leggings or fleece bottoms.

At 12:48 AM, Anonymous GoVanGo said...

I first left the comfort of suburbia to work in a national park, via "The National Parks Trade Journal". This very handy resource lists private sector jobs within the national park system. I highly recommend this book for anyone who can appreciate nature and doesn't mind sharing a tent-cabin or dorm with another individual. You can get enough money saved to move on and buy a car or whatever, with no major sacrifice. You will meet other adventurers and travelers and learn much while enjoying the best of the u.s. that's left imo. I got to live in Yosemite National Park for 9 months, bussing tables, for the cost of about 20 dollars a week, (20 yrs ago), including 3 meals a day.

Ever since I left that job behind, I have switched hats as a painter, a cook/chef, waiter, and occasionally jumped at other, more educational & adventurous gigs...and I have always had a van with curtains.

I learned to hang most everything off the sides to save room. I learned to scout out in daylight, a parking option with high hedges to the east of the curb, or at least a tree where I could wake without cooking in the sun.
Seek out many places with this advantage, and rotate parking so that your cars presence doesn't become a nuisance to the neighbors who have too much time on their hands.
AAA is a wise investment for sure, as is some simple car-care/tune-up knowledge.
Small holes in/or gaps around curtains allow for viewing the street scene before pulling out for the day. My finding is that, if no one sees you at all--you're likely to be best off. Scout out the cleanest public restroom options, and do your best to find 24 hour options nearby.
Eat early in the evening, not late night, and you will wake up much more relaxed in the morning and avoid the stress of hurrying to the loo.
Don't reveal much to local homeless who seem to be always around the same old spots. They may be friends too--but the association may get in the way of melding into the area if you wish to be there a while. Ii have been happily maintaining a rolling home under the radar since '93, and have mostly always been very invisible that way. No matter where you are, I wish you a happy houseless adventure.

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

I'm of your mindset. I'm an educated, sane, and sober individual who feels increasingly enslaved by societal mechanisms and penalties. I'm seriously researching your path to true freedom.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in South Florida and the wages are terrible when it comes to regular type jobs. Around 6 years ago I lived in a brand new red mustang for around a year, from that experience I bought a white dodge caravan and stayed in it for around 3 years. I was working and saving a lot of money. You have to blend in and you have to have a gym to shower in and also you have to look normal. Recently I just ran into hard times I am having trouble finding a job fortunately I have around 1200.00 in bank and own a 1994 Cadillac in great shape that runs great. I am 55 years old and a little concerned about working at a daily work daily pay place but I am going to do it and save all I can. I actually own a 5th wheel that is worth around 7000.00 but I can't afford the park anymore, I am going to store it till I get on my feet. I can't wait till I am 62 to get my social security. I am really at the end of my rope when it comes to working for these 2 bit jobs that want to abuse you and take advantage of you, I can't take it anymore and just hanging on. It is tough to live in a car or van but once you get it down it also has a nice feeling to it which I think is independence away from greedy society trying to take whatever they can from you. Good luck to all.

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog. I am aware I can tell a cop no to search but I was not aware they really can't charge me for sleeping in my car. This is good to know and takes the fear away and gives me the power. Thank you so much. As for me as a women I myself will not get out of the car, I think going to the front of my van and rolling down the window enough to communicate will do.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you very much for this article. I recently slept in my van overnight so as to have an early start on a bike ride the next morning. The cop scenario you describe is spot-on. I didn't avoid opening the van because the pounding was so loud, and I had my 2 1/2 year old with me (he rides in my bike trailor). Incredible that these law are on the books. I asked the officer to cite me. He wouldn't. He apologized, but that's because he figured out I wasn't homeless. It's a law to intimidate the homeless. Screw up! Also, he asked me for ID. If you become homeless, please have valid ID. Don't let it expire. Also, thank you for the tip on not allowing a search: never would I have thought about that detail.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for this article. I never thought about the illegal search you mention. I now know for next time. The way that you describe the run-in with the cops is spot-on. I had a similar experience in my go-van and in the City of Cupertino where there's an ordinance against sleeping in one's car. A just went to the City's website to read the ordinance. Crazy! I emailed the sheriff for clarification. I did NOT get cited, though I asked the cop to do so (just to get things over with). I had to open the door because the pounding would have scared my toddler. The cop didn't identify himself so I was pretty scared to open the door; finally, he did. I'm not homeless (I was getting an early start for a bike ride), but I believe this is a law that is used against the homeless, and it's wrong. The cop did ask for ID, so make sure your ID isn't expired. He was nice, and apologized for waking us - but I believe that's only because he learned that we weren't homeless.

At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Police can cause you trouble in Spokane , officers will tell you its illegal to sleep in your car or even in your motor home even at Wal-Mart one time was told you have 15 min. To move on cause we dont want to wait for tow truck.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger hippie said...

You can now live in a vehicle legally in LA!

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I have a cub cab pick up truck with tinted windows and have been harassed sleeping in the back seat. At a place I asked a business owner if I could. I have a propane stove,power inverter,laptop. And few bottle of water blankets and pillows. I have a class A CDL every thing a semi driver does except commercial plates. Why is it when I sleep in the same conditions in a semi truck for months on end its consider a home but not my own truck with the exact same conditions. its consider homeless. to me definition of home is comforts ability to heat and cool one self to store food to cook food and privacy from others. So other than big business whats the differences?


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