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10-14-2009 @ 19:48:55
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Living in a car isn't something that anyone would recommend. However,
when you get laid off, your emergency fund runs out, your home is foreclosed
(or you get an eviction notice) and there's nobody to help, living in your
car might be the only choice, especially if you don't feel safe at a local
shelter. Unfortunately, in many places, sleeping in your car is
not only frowned upon, but also illegal. Here's how to get by until something
better comes along.
Remember, you are not alone and you have a vehicle.
Find a safe and inconspicuous place to park. First, check to see if
there are any organizations in your area (or a nearby area) that designates
parking lots specifically for people in situations like yours; it's not only
legal, but the organization might screen the people who use the lot, or even
designate a women-only lot. If
there are no such lots available, and you live in a city, look for streets
with no sidewalks, no overlooking windows, and adjacent to woods; the area
should be sparse enough to avoid nosy onlookers but populated enough that
the car does not stand out. Parking
lots of big-box retailers (especially those that are open 24 hours and have
restrooms, such as Wal-mart) are great to clean up in and have security.
As long as you spend a couple of dollars there and don't park in one place
Camp sites are another option, although they usually have time limits and
are almost as expensive as a hotel room. Some offer a shower for a nominal
National Forests have some free camping with a limit of 14 days.
If there's no restroom, having a creek nearby helps for rinsing purposes.
Know how to safely defecate outdoors and make a poop tube.
Five gallon bucket with a lid and lye in for odor.
Once you find a spot, try to arrive late at night, and leave before 7am.
This will draw as little attention as possible to yourself.
If you can establish rapport with the manager of a retail store or restaurant,
they may not give you problems about staying overnight, especially if they
see your presence as a form of overnight
A free hospital parking lot is another option. If approached by a guard,
you can say that you're waiting to visit a sick
Find a place to shower. The most logical place is a gym. This will
help you keep your sanity and give you a purpose to your morning. Don't settle
for the first gym you find. If you look around, you may find nearly deserted
gyms in which you can shower and fully clean yourself without
The next best choice is to check into a cheap motel or hostel once or twice
a week and clean up thoroughly there (if you can afford it).
Public pools tend to have showers, depending on whether they have private
stalls or are set up gang style, they may provide a discrete place to shower.
At a truck stop, you can ask around for a shower coupon, if you feel safe
allowing people to know that you're without a place to stay. Truck stops
are good to sleep at too.
Some toll roads, especially state turnpikes, have large rest areas with free
showers for truckers. Since these are usually open 24 hours, these plazas
are also good places to sleep.
Keep an eye out for community college athletic field houses-- they don't
always check IDs, and can be a good free shower option.
Rest areas on National highways are good for a few hours and most have security.
Be discreet. Keeping your situation under wraps minimizes the
embarrassment and helps avoid becoming a target for police officers and criminals
Rotate among several parking locations to avoid getting noticed.
When you move around in the parked car, move slowly to avoid rocking the
Consider using a car cover. Not only will it maintain privacy (especially
since condensation on the windows will otherwise make it obvious that you're
in there) but it will also keep the car warmer during winter. This is not
a viable option, however, when it's hot outside.
When it's sunny in the daytime, use a sunshade for the windshield.
Keep the windows cracked open while you sleep, not wide enough for someone
to reach in, but enough to allow fresh air and reduce condensation on the
Get the things you'll need. The basic essentials for living in a car
are a blanket, a pillow, and a mattress or some other padding. Due to the
angles involved in the seating setup, you may develop dull back pain from
the cramped quarters. Should this happen, be sure to have pain medication
on hand. Once you have your sleeping gear, you'll want a blanket to place
over the back seat, and draped over the two front seats. This will block
light and people's views.
Find alternate ways of generating electricity. A cigarette lighter
converter is one option. These are useful for powering low consuming devices
(100 watts), but if you plan on using your vehicle for cooking, then you'll
need to draw power more directly from your battery or you'll blow the fuse.
You will also need a much more expensive converter, and need to idle the
vehicle while drawing this power. An alternative is to use gas, but do not
use this inside the vehicle for safety reasons.
Have a place to store items that is portable. Get bags you can fill
with your soaps, clothes, cell phone, etc. Keeping things in order will save
you a lot of hassle. A vehicle may seem like a small space, but losing things
can be extremely easy. Also, keeping things neat inside the car will draw
less attention from people passing by who happen to look in the windows.
Hiding your bedding might be a good idea (consider the trunk). There's not
a lot of extra room in a vehicle for a week's worth of clothes, so consider
finding a hiding place to keep them. The laundromat is great, but don't waste
a load by throwing in too much, or not diluting the soap first. When you're
not in the car, leave windows cracked and dryer sheets scattered about to
keep the interior smelling decent. Wash your sheets once a month, or else
you risk smelling like a homeless person, which will blow your cover and
get you treated like a homeless person.
Keep dirty clothes separate in plastic bags so they do not smell up all your
Evaluate your food options. Peanut butter, tuna and crackers are great
staples. Have a box for food so it does not get smashed. Gallons of water
are a necessity for a lot of things.They will be limited by the lack of
refrigeration. Fast food is expensive when you're living off of it. With
old fashioned (large flake) rolled oats, powdered milk, bottled water, plastic
cups, and chocolate protein powder, you can ensure that you always have a
nutritious snack to fall back on.
Before you start living in your car, use your permanent address
Rent a P.O. Box or a Private Mail Box (PMB). Although PMBs tend to be more
expensive, you can receive packages at them and some services will let you
use a address format which makes it appear to be an apartment, which is useful
for when someone requires a physical address.
Sign up for a gym membership. (This however, can be expensive, and if your
resources are limited, you may find it to be a drain.)
Renew any paperwork that will require an address to process soon.
Put valuables in a safe deposit box at a bank.
If you have friends or family who can't (or refuse to) help you with your
living situation (or you refuse to ask them for help) think about at least
asking them if you can use their address.
Stay positive. Keep reminding yourself that the situation is only
temporary. Spend each day hitting the pavement and looking for jobs. Use
the local library and bookstore not only to search for jobs, but also to
become more knowledgeable in ways that will help you get through this and
find a job. Most importantly, talk to people like social workers and religious
organization workers who will sympathize and understand, and try to help.
If your car has the capacity, install a hanging bar. This will provide a
bit more storage space as well as keep clothes wrinkle-free for job interviews,
Tint your windows for privacy; tinting works better than using barriers (blankets
etc.) because it enables you to see out while others cannot see in. This
could be helpful when trying to leave unnoticed. Barriers also attract attention
and advertise what you are doing, while tinted windows are very common on
If you wear contact lenses you will need a disinfectant for your hands. Better
yet, wear glasses.
Sleeping will likely be a challenge at first because there is a good chance
that your vehicle is not large enough for you to fully stretch out your body.
Find a position where you can comfortably sleep with your legs bent or against
your chest. Alternatively, you can try sitting up in the back seat and propping
a pillow against the wall of the car.
Get an automobile association membership. This will help you if you drain
your battery, or break down.
Make sure you have vehicle documentation and insurance. Without them, your
problems will increase.
Personal safety should always be your number-one priority. Knives used for
food preparation and tire irons can be used as weapons. You may want to learn
your state's gun laws and purchase a handgun or other firearm if you do not
already own one. Criminals seek out people who appear vulnerable, or travel
alone. Sometimes the sound of a cocked gun will be sufficient enough to deter
a potential mugger.
If you are spending the night in your car and you have been drinking alcohol,
do not have the keys in the ignition, If it is winter and you need to run
the car for heat, move over to the passenger or back seat. Otherwise, you
could get a DUI/DWI just for being in your car.
The garbage truck or other neighborhood noises can wake you up. Consider
Pay attention to your instincts. If a parking spot feels weird for any reason,
find yourself a new one.
If you are on food stamps, and can't afford deodorant or car deodorizer,
baking soda is really good substitute that food stamps can buy. Also cheap
dollar store hydrogen peroxide along with baking soda, are a phenomenal
toothpaste. If for some reason you cannot bath for a day or two, baking soda
will make your hair clean and grease free.
Apply for HUD Housing in remote areas of the country where there is no waiting
Never sleep in the driver seat if you can avoid it. Your body will quickly
associate that seat with sleeping, creating risks when you are driving -
especially when you're tired. Recline the passenger seat or lie down in the
back if there is room.
If you are sleeping in the car on a regular basis, do as few other things
in the car as possible. Don't eat, read, or anything else that will cause
you to spend more time than necessary in the car. The more time you spend
in it, the more smells will accumulate.
If you use a car cover, never run the car or smoke while it is on. You could
easily suffocate or get carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, do not use it on
a warm day without adequate ventilation.
Be careful who you tell about your living in a car. If they're not likely
to provide assistance, then don't bother, because you might end up endangering
Be aware that having a gun in the car carries its risks. If you are startled
awake and point the gun at the wrong person (i.e. a cop tapping on the window),
you can wind up being shot yourself.
Don't drink alcohol. Don't even bring any alcohol into your car. If cops
find you with alcohol in your blood or in your car, you could get in serious
trouble, even if you're not driving at the time.
 Things You'll Need
Car with insurance and license
Blankets and pillows
Towels and wash cloths
Gym membership (you will stay clean and work off stress)
Automobile association membership (if your car insurance doesn't include
 Related wikiHows
How to Make Money Fast
How to Panhandle
How to Become a Hobo
How to Stay Positive when You Know Your Life Sucks
(Original Len: 17653 Condensed Len: 17990)
10-14-2009 @ 19:48:55