How to sleep in your car

Sleeping in your car is not ideal, but if you must: this excerpt from http://www.homelesshandbook.0catch.com/sleep.html is informative

The lucky homeless still have their cars. Oh such luck. And really, on the pecking order of the homeless, those with cars are right near the top. See? Even the homeless have their own brand of snobbery. They still face many of the challenges of being homeless, but they at least retain some degree of mobility and a place to sleep and store clothes etc. Regardless, though to a lesser extent, you will need to find a place to sleep, you upper crust Extreme Camper you.
In most cities it is illegal for you to sleep in your car. If you do, you will get hassled etc. So where do you park to avoid or minimize hassles? First off, you can absolutely forget about public parks. It might be the first thought to come to your head but guess what my little homeless learner? It’s the first thought that comes to everybody’s head. Parks are frequently patrolled by the local police, not just because of you, the homeless, but also because of the fact that kids gravitate to them for many of their ‘activities’. i.e. Smoking, drinking, fucking, and graffiti or vandalism if they can’t do one of the first three activities.
Most industrial parks and shopping centers etc. aren’t much better. These are the areas that the police are truly hired to protect and serve. They are regularly patrolled and you will be noticed and hassled.
So where can you go?
There are a number of places that can be made to work. However you MUST scout (There’s that word scouting again) them first. Don’t actually sleep, just hang out and notice the flow of people and traffic. Is there anything nearby that would commonly cause attention to be drawn to your vicinity? What’s the lighting like? Kids around? Other homeless? Cul-d-sac?? Use common sense and let your instincts be your guide. Much of what you decide will be based on the strategy you adopt. Basically there are two strategies, herd and hermit. The herd strategy relies on you being able to get lost in the crowd, while the hermit strategy requires as little contact with others as possible. Both have their pros and cons, and the truth of the matter is you will undoubtedly use a combination of both. But always scout ahead. This isn’t fool proof of course, but it will tend to minimize your risks. So with that said, lets take a look at your deluxe street side accommodations.

A dark section of a residential neighborhood.
This is a good option if done correctly. Here are a couple of hints and things to remember though. First, when parking make sure you park exactly between houses. That is to say make sure that half your car lies parallel with one house, the other half parallel with their next door neighbor. Why? Attend and be amazed.
Because people generally know what cars are parked on their streets. They certainly know what cars to expect parked in front of their own house. In fact some people get positively territorial and will actively inspect any vehicle parked in front of their homes. So, by parking right in the middle you allow both neighbors to assume that your vehicle is in fact the other neighbor’s guest. Oh the sublime joy! Applied social engineering can be fun!
Important anti-hassle tip: No matter where you park, even though it may be cold and even raining, you must leave some windows cracked open in the car. This is to prevent or minimize interior fogging of the windows. Fogging is a dead give-away from the outside and will always draw attention. Especially from police. Yes yes yes, some evening you might get lucky and have dew condense on the windows which would hide the fogging from the inside. But guess what Urban Camper? That dew takes a lot longer to condense than it does for you to fog the windows from the inside, so again, its a dead give-away.
During summer you won’t be as prone to fogging, but you’ll probably need to keep the windows open wider and longer just because of the temperature. This turns into a real blood sucking thrill because mosquitoes are in large part attracted by heat and carbon dioxide. Both of these will be streaming from you and your car in huge concentrated quantities. It’s very much like ringing a dinner bell. Yum. Can you say West Nile Virus? Gooood. Can you say Encephalitis? Nice try. Tomorrow we’ll have a nice visit with the man from Vector Control.
Do you want a quiet street or a busy street? Yes.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Obviously on a quiet street there will be fewer people to observe you and you are more likely to get a good nights rest (In as much is that is possible under the circumstances) However, you will stand out more and be more readily recognized as something different.
On the busy street you will certainly blend in far more readily. You’re far less likely to attract attention by your mere presence. The flip side of that coin is you are more likely to be observed by someone, including police, and the noise etc. makes it more difficult to rest.
A final note on neighborhood parking. No matter where you decide to park the best you can hope for is a couple of nights in a row… especially on the quiet street. If you want to avoid being hassled by the police, and I assume you do, you have to find a new spot every few nights. A strange vehicle on the street will eventually cause people to talk and usually sooner rather than later. Also its only a matter of time before someone sees you sleeping. Remember that camper. It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN. If you stay in one place long enough you WILL be seen. Sucks to be you.
Which also brings up another point. Blocking the windows. If your car has tinted windows then hurray for you, its one less thing to worry about. If not, it’s fine to put up a sunscreen on the windshield but that’s it. Blocking all the side windows and rear window with other ‘stuff’ is like putting a sign on the roof that says, “Someone is sleeping in here”. Bad Ju-Ju for you.

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6 thoughts on “How to sleep in your car

  1. your sarcastic, condescending language is disgusting. i am car-homeless in LA, and you’ve provided no useful information whatsoever. you just essentially tried to mock me. your writing is sophomoric and overwrought. it’s very clear that you’ve never been homeless. now i’m just going to assume that this blog is a high school project, so i can excuse it.

      1. I was hoping that was the case . . . all though I am occasionally all those things as well! :) May I ask, are you finding any resources to help you out of your car? Has calling 211 been helpful?

  2. yeah, my comment was entirely directed at the link you provided. at first, i mistook it as your writing. at any rate, i really appreciate your blog. because of you, i learned about the restaurants that take ebt. i never even knew such a thing was possible before. now i know i can eat at tv cafe, which rocks!! i haven’t called 211. i recently spent a day at the dept. of social services, however. currently, my concerns are finding places to shower, finding places to go to on the holidays, and finding soup. (it’s ridiculous that one cannot purchase soup or any hot food from a grocery deli with ebt.) in regard to showering, i understand there is the ymca, but they only offer one week free. do you have any advice or input on any of these mentions? thanks much.

    1. hi!
      When you say you eat at the TV Cafe- I assume you are near Alameda and 10th in Downtown? It is not free – but I think that for less than a dollar you can shower at LAMP on San Pedro using the Public Toilets and Showers. They give out soap and loan towels.

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