How These Two Men Lived In Their Cars For Months

Illustration for article titled How These Two Men Lived In Their Cars For Months

There's a point before homelessness but after eviction where owning a car means avoiding the shelter lines. This is the story of two men at that point, trying to maintain an internet connection and hope while living in their cars.


(Normally, Answers of the Day is where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's "Question Of The Day" and present them in a listicle. However, these two responses to our question How Can You Live In Your Car were both so earnest and touching we've presented them here in their entirety.)

The Safety Of A Wal-Mart Parking Lot


I had a two door grand am that I did in fact live in for about two months after losing my job a few years back. It was in Orlando during the summer so this is not applicable to winter in cold areas.

I slept more comfortably by packing stuff into the rear seat leg room gap, and spreading a blanket over that. I curled up with a sheet, and cracked the windows. It was hot. Very hot. But I wasn't in a lot of discomfort even with my 6'2" frame. I kept the front seats clear minus resume, and job hunting materials in my bag.

I used the engine to heat up boyardee, and other canned foods for meals. Wal Mart is a good place to park. They usually have some RV's visiting anyway, and were open 24 hours. I'd make nice with some of them, and get a meal or a shower. I met some really great retirees this way. They'd let me park adjacent to them to stay relatively safe, or at least near help. I'd clean dishes, the RV or whatever I could to thank them for the meal and/or shower.

Local shelters, and YMCA's are great for keeping clean as well. I opposed welfare, and unemployment so I did odd jobs that I could. I have always insisted on providing for myself.

I speak so frankly because I now have a great career, wonderful fiancee, and am currently hunting down my first home. Those months sucked, and I got out of it faster than most. However it's never far away these days, and whatever I learned I feel sharing it is prudent. Stay safe, and keep your chin up.

Hey, I've Still Got The Internet

By: gravit8

Yeah, so, I got laid in off in April, in Florida, and came home to an eviction notice the same day so heres a recent technique:

Find a cheap storage unit for all your crap. I had an 8'x10' for like $30/month. It sorta helps if you know the general area you'll be staying in, as you may not have too much $ for gas to drive back and forth. 24 hour access is good, but more pricey. Keep all your clothes and crap in there too, just keep enough on hand for a couple of days.

I was staying in a Ford Explorer in a very urban area of Jacksonville. From driving in the area I knew a spot where I could park and not be seen that wasn't at all likely to have foot traffic. Eventually someone will find you and maybe boot you out but the longer you can stay parked the better. If your registration and DL is up to date hopefully the cops won't give you a ticket if they show up. You might get lucky and find someone who is sympathetic to your situation, assuming you haven't been doing something incredibly stupid, like trashing the place. The smaller your footprint, the better. The less you drive in our out, or are visible, the better.

I rode my bike as much as possible, using the library for free internet via laptop and juice for my phone. I had an a/c converter in my truck as well. If you need your net (and I do) you should know by now how to inconspicuously find open access points without parking directly in front of some random house. I had been using my truck for a work vehicle so I already had a directional wifi antenna and some other toys to help out there.

In Florida, in May/June, it is very hot, and there are so many bugs, even if I could find a comfortable position in the back, I had to stay under a blanket so I didn't get eaten alive. Exposed skin is like a buffet to all the bloodsucking flying bastards within a 1 mile radius...Combined with a distinct fear for my life, sleeping outdoors in an urban area, I was forced to leave my windows up and doors locked, so I basically sauteed myself in my truck every night.

I awoke one morning to discover someone carrying several bags of groceries toward my very discreet parking spot. A neighboring business had noticed me and bought me some supplies. That was definitely cause for a reevaluation of the human race because I'd recently had my bike taken from my spot in the middle of the night (yeah it was locked too, and I was sleeping like 5 ft away), so you can never just give up hope in other people no matter how shitty some of them can be.

At any rate, it's not something you ever want to go through but if you use your head and keep your eyes open you can make it. I imagine it'd be easier to head for the hills and 'camp' somewhere, in a wilderness, and live out of your vehicle, but I was forced to go urban camping in the concrete jungle and I made it out alive. I lost almost everything in the space of a week but, hey...I've still got the internet.


Photo Credit: 29years



Dear Jalopnik

I dont know what to say. At the time I went through this there was a lot of stuff going on in my life and around me. When I look back on those 2 1/2 months it is with mixed emotions.

Many of the circumstances that landed me in some vacant lot in JAX in the middle of June were of my own making. Many were not. Still, it was a learning experience, despite the life I've led I had never anticipated being 'homeless' at any point.

I called it urban camping. I knew I had to try to keep my dignity and integrity while facing down a growing mountain of issues. When you get to this point, it is often one very minor circumstance that can derail the last remaining chances a person has at reclaiming something of the life they had. For me, it was a minor registration ticket I'd received months earlier that I'd put off, and then I was handed a steaming pile of life. For about 2 weeks, I feared that a cop would run my DL and find it was suspended for that minor ticket. The result would be more fines and likely the tow/impounding of my only remaining transportation and shelter.

I spent hours laying awake at night, listening to the cars on the nearby interstate, straining to hear the unseen monsters of the urban darkness. Stressing about finding work, any work. Stressing about $, just to get something to eat the next day, to get to my stuff. There were more than a few moments when I questioned my purpose, and my perceived punishment (what did I do to deserve this?). My well-being was under constant threat and I doubted if I was ever going to find a way out.

One of the things I forced myself to do daily was check Gawker and read. io9, gizmodo, jalopnik, kotaku - anything to keep my mind off the impending doom. Between digging through craigslist for work and my internet regimen, I stayed sane, but just barely.

If not for my family and a few close friends I might still be out on those streets (but I doubt I would have lasted much longer where I was at).

The experience has given me another opportunity to consider what life is about, and how easily all your best laid plans can collapse, teaching me that you just have to keep trying to make it work. I am fortunate in many ways to still be able to share my thoughts with fellow jalops, and if I can help just one person find a way to make it through my shared experience I am glad to do it.

I had to sell things, including my '91 mazda 323 (which I loved dearly, even at 250,000+ miles) to get by. I moved west to New Mexico with family and everything I had left fit in the back of that Explorer (it was a 2 dr sport version, btw).

If anything, it has shown me that to live, you dont need a fancy house or big-screen tv, or all the crap that people fill their garages with - I'd have had to leave it all if I'd had it. It's all nice but you quickly learn that the priorities of our society are...misplaced much of the time.

In the end it came down to my desire keep my dignity intact, even if I was sponge-bathing myself, buck-ass naked, in the middle of a deserted lot. I didnt rob, I didnt steal, I cleaned up my garbage (and others' garbage, as well) and I didn't ask anyone for anything I didn't need.

I could go on, but I wanted to thank the Jalopnitariat for everything they've done, from the comments to the stories to the incredibly insane crap car people do to amuse themselves. I wouldn't have made it without you.