times are tough and sometimes we need to do what ever nessassary to survive. Sometimes sleeping in your car is a temporary solution to get you past that financial hump.
Homeless shelters can be a horrible experience and do more bad then good. They are usually located in questionable areas or sometimes sign ins are too early to coordinate with your work schedule. But before you take the plunge into resorting to the car living lifestyle check with your local shelter sometimes they can help you with a much better living arrangement. In my case this is a negative so onto things you need to get by.
Getting your car prepared.
Make sure your car is registered and insured and also in good working order. Cannot stress this enough last thing you want is a police officer waking you up just to find out if your OK and finding out you don't have your vehicle registered or insured. Not fun. This can be hard with no address. Ask friends if you can use there address temporarily or see if your state allows P. O. Box addresses for registration. Most car insurance companies do not care about the address as long as you can provide a parking address again ask a friend for use of there address. Also if your car isn't running and a property owner doesn't want you there then towing your car place to place will cost more then a week in a hotel. Make sure your car is in running condition.
Make the car livable.
A pillow and a blanket are the obvious but also you will need other things as well, clothing, food, water, etc. So get air tight containers to store things in and keep things organized. It's looks really bad if stopped by a police officer and you got just random bags of clothes and garbage all over your car. Keep a storage container of fresh clothes one for dirty. Don't bring your entire wardrobe either just enough to get you thru a week at a time. one container or cooler for food and water but again keep it minimal especially if you have a small car. and finally a small container for your bathroom necessities. Keep not just a tooth brush and shampoo but pack toilet paper, hair brush, qtips, baby wipes, deodorant etc. You wanna keep healthy and clean.
Make your car as less of an eye sore as possible. Hey not everyone can afford a nice car or van that won't stick out or we wouldn't be in this mess to begin with. But even in a nice car you have to be stealth.
First thing is keep your Windows defogged! I cannot stress this enough. When a police officer sees a car with fogged up windows first thing he thinks is to investigate. To prevent this get a bottle of Anti-fog or on the cheap side get a potato cut it in half and rub the cut part on your Windows. Yeah trust me it works and now your car will just look like a parked car and not a car with someone camping out fogging up the windows.
Next if you got the money tint your Windows the darkest the state you live in allows. Darker the better so it's less likely passerbys will see you and report you.
Keep around your car clean of garbage whither it's yours or not. If you smoke pick up your butts. Never leave anything behind. Even if it's OK you spend a night there and leave a mess next time you will get reported.
Keep movement to a minimum... Worst thing to draw attention is moving around a lot with your Windows fogged up... Then the embarrassment of not having a lady/man with you when a cop knocks on the window.
Make sure it's OK.
Ask the security guard, owner of the property or manager on duty if it is ok to spend the night. If you simply ask and tell them your situation usually they don't mind. This won't keep the cops at bay but at least you asked and got permission and then the cops cannot do anything. Also just by simply asking scores you karma points... You'd be surprised how many business or property owners want to help even with a simple enlightening chat or employment or food. Hell one of them might even know a place for rent. Don't tell your life story or how you ended up this way just explain that you are in between residency and you need a place to park and sleep for the night. Be polite if they say no and move on. If it's a 24 hour gas station or convince store buy something a customer always has more of a shot then someone who just pulls into a spot and sleeps.
Also rotate the places you stay. A store owner may say it's OK today bit if your there 4 nights in a row they might start complaining also it makes a target for the cops if they see you in the same spot all the time.
Keep yourself clean.
I know it's hard but you got to keep yourself as clean as possible. Ask friends if you can shower at there place. Some rest stops offer showers for a small price. Local gyms may allow you to shower even without a membership if you explain your situation.
Bum showers with baby wipes in a public bathroom sink work too just try to find a bathroom that is a private one person at a time deal... I don't think I need to explain that one.
Things to stay away from.
Parks are good for during the day to nap but never park at night. I even tried calling the county and asking permission to park over night and it's a big no no. Parks with campsites seem to be a OK bet but a lot cost money and without a tent Rangers will bother you.
Residential areas... While this is perfectly legal and the police cannot do anything about it they will harass you way more then in a parking lot somewhere. They will make up stories how you where reported and even blame murder on you. Home owners will think you are stalking them and definitely report you. Stay away at all costs!
Also don't take advantage of your situation by asking for more then a place to park. You'll get a place to stay then mess it up asking for food because owners will help you with a place to stay but they don't want a bum on there hands asking for everything. Let them offer things to you and they will at times so don't push it.
Some quick tips...
Hotels can sometimes comp you a room or at least let you wash in a room before they tidy it up for the next guest, it doesn't hurt to ask. Also many motels offer hourly rates... These places might be nasty dirty places but at least you can get a quick shower.
Free food when money is tight. Yes there are plenty of places to get food like soup kitchens but sometimes there may not be one close by or in your travels. Stores that prepare food usually throw a lot of food out or even donate there food to organizations that bring them to the homeless... Well guess what you are homeless. Ask them late night or before they close if they are throwing anything out. 9 times out of 10 they already know why you are asking and will either tell you what time or give you a free meal. If they don't know what your talking about then explain your situation and sometimes they will understand but do not harass them! Some of these places do have a policy in place to not feed the homeless because even if you are clean and not a drunken bum they do not want vagrants running a muck cause they offer free food. Just say thank you and walk away.
Walmart is rumored to have a policy set in place that allows you to camp in your car in there parking lot. I have seen some out west that even have signs posted with designated areas to do so. Unfortunately the wallmarts near me are too far and a waste of gas for me to get to and from work. But I have stayed at one or two with little or no harassment from police.
Movie theaters sometimes offer a double feature for the price of one ticket. I am one of those people that can sleep thru any movie so for the price of a double feature movie or a tolken movie I can get 3-4 hours of sleep in... Not too bad. Now I understand this isn't for everyone but a place to sleep is a place to sleep and hey if you can't sleep thru the whole thing at least you got entertainment. I suggest Quinton Tarantino movies... There horribly done, boring and are total snooze fests but that's just my opinion.
Police will be knocking!
Police are here to protect and serve but on there downtime....
I have been harassed by many police during this adventure hell even writing this a cop stopped as asked me hundred of questions and to move along.
This is going to happen and happen often. They will lie and say you've been reported. They will say you fit the profile of a rape and robbery. They will do everything to make your situation unbearable. I had even nice cop bad cop situations. One particular town the cops follow my car and if I stop to even go shop at a store they are ready and waiting to harass me if I sit in my car for more then 5min. Best thing to do is explain briefly your situation and that you asked permission from the property owner or store owner if it's OK. Usually they will make you move anyway or just harass you thru the night making it impossible to sleep. There is no stopping this so be polite and if they ask you to leave or if they are even the slightest bit jerky then leave. It is perfectly legal to stay in your car so don't let them say otherwise but also don't tell them they are wrong either. Know your rights but don't fight for them if you wanna sleep.
Stay positive! Stay strong! #homeless #sleepincar #hungry #camping