*Be certain to read the chapter on scouting and TABS. This really should be the companion chapter to this one.*
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.
More Temporary layovers for the vehicular urban adventurist.
Here's one for the bold, but the psychology of the idea is sound. Park in a quite corner of a police station or courthouse parking lot. It relies on the fact that many times the police (usually for good reason) don't check things out THAT close to home. Do your scouting first, but in general it can be a good and reasonably safe place to be.
These can be a very good place to go but they too have there good points and bad points. If youve scouted the location properly you already know if they have rent-a-cops on duty. Don't scoff at the rent-a-cop. True they are mostly just there as a form of mental masturbation for those that hired them, yet still they know how to use a phone just as well as you do. So lets assume that there are no security guards and the gates are left open during the off hours. Or in some cases they open automatically very early in the morning to allow customers to enter before the hired staff arrives. They are also rarely patrolled by regular police. Bonus! Dance a Happy Homeless Dance. This can be a great place to sleep because you don't have to worry about suspicious neighbors. However being the only car in the structure makes you not only memorable and conspicuous, but a target for bored teenagers and the occasional car thief. A variant on this theme is the hotel self parking area, again with proper scouting, this can be a very good place to park. See below.
Hotel Parking Lots
Can be a surprisingly good place. Careful scouting is as usual important. But if they have a fair flow of traffic and minimal security, this can work. Truck stop type hotels are ideal in this situation.
Roadside Rest Stops
Fine for a night or two but no more, the CHP or local equivalent patrol these zones regularly and dat da name o dat tune.
WHAT, NO CAR?
The sad fact is, that it has often been costly automobile repairs combined with job loss, illness etc. that cause a person to become homeless in the first place. And that is an awful moment. The first night, no car, probably just the clothes on your back and maybe what you could shove into a back pack, and nowhere to go or to sleep. Where am I going to sleep tonight? This is the one that really cuts to the bone.
Okay, you can try to find a shelter, and if you can manage to walk there and if they have space available and if you can stand the utterly dehumanizing environment, you might have taken care of that problem for one night. But take note that there are a lot of 'ifs' involved in that last sentence.
So. What IF (and it's likely) a shelter isn't an option. Now what?
-Busnapping. No this doesn't have anything to do with kidnapping or hijacking a bus. Nobody would pay the ransom anyway. If you can scrape up enough money for an all day bus pass, you can get on a 24 route and try to catch a little sleep that way.
Advantages: Dry, relatively safe, buses are heated and air conditioned. Disadvantages: Costs money that you might need for food. Difficult to sleep sitting up. Most of the time you are kicked off the bus at turn-around and must wait for the driver's break to end or the next bus to come. Also some day passes expire around 2-3 in the morning. Meaning you either get another pass or get off… since you're broke, it really means get off the bus… just hope it's not raining.
-Park or Bus Bench
Advantages: You aren't sleeping directly on the ground. At least you are laying down. Park and bus benches are fairly numerous. Disadvantages: Completely exposed to weather in most cases. You will get rousted. You will get harassed. You will get chased off. If you are lucky enough to have a blanket you cannot use it because most cities have these compassionate laws that say one cannot cover themselves with a blanket in public. I won't bother to list the litany of pathetic 'reasons' for these laws. The fact is they are aimed at YOU the homeless. The city leaders don't want you around. Period. Any tactic to discourage you from being in THEIR city WILL be employed. -Does it suck to be you or what?
Advantages: Perhaps not as likely to be rousted by authorities. Usually very little traffic from the mundanes. Disadvantages: Generally unsafe and dangerous, sometimes a magnet for other homeless or kids.
-Under the over pass.
Ah, the classic. Become a bridge troll. Advantages: reasonably dry, some protection from wind. Quite a few locations. Minor hassle potential in many locations. Disadvantages: Cold, dirty, LOUD, attracts other campers. Also very low, shall we say, coffin like, overhead on what I like to call the sleeping lip. That's the flat area near the top. You know, your new home. Better run out and get curtains.
-Become a Bush Baby. Advantages: Vast number of locations. Easy to find quite, dark area. Disadvantages. No protection from weather at all. Dirtier than the underpass even.
-The electrical transformer is your friend.
This is sort of a subset of bush baby, and like bush babies you'll have no protection from rain. However the advantage is that them thar transformers can sometimes be pretty darn warm… ergo so will you.
-To the restroom!
Many small office buildings, especially older ones have exterior public restrooms. Advantages: If you can find one that you can access this is really a great place, especially the upper floor restrooms because they are warmer in winter. Also you have a convenient ready made place to clean up and use the facilities. Very much one stop shopping. Disadvantages: Janitors and people walking in. You may not be able to bed down till late and you'll certainly need to rise and leave very early in the morning to avoid discovery.
-Vacant homes and apartments
On first blush they seem like the best of the best, but the risks really far outweigh any potential benefits. For one thing, you know that on any given evening you could return to find the residence now occupied. Late at night is bad time to have to search for a place to sleep. Also, if you are caught, it is unlikely you will be simply shooed off. Though most of your Extreme Camping options technically involve trespassing, unlike the others, chances are you'll be going to jail on this one… life sucks in the streets but jail is worse. Maybe that would make a nice bumper sticker. The worst day homeless is better than the best day in jail. It's up to you, but ol' Harv's advice is to never do anything that's likely to land you in jail. Notice I said likely. Simply being homeless is enough to possibly land you in jail… just not likely. Don't do anything to raise a possible to a likely.
-Trains Planes and Bus Stations
Bus stations, airports and the like… places with people 24 hours… might work for a night or two but security will eventually give you the heave-ho. Use these only if you have to… for instance if the rains have turned your bush bed into a water bed.
-In the dumpster
Come on now. Better to just stay awake tonight.
Lets pause a moment to review:
It sucks to be you.
Moving right along, there are still a few related tips that you need to know about. The big one is the late night potty break. Hey, it happens to everyone and if there is no restroom nearby then ya gotta do what ya gotta do. BUT, that doesn't mean you have to disengage the brain. A big I Hate The Homeless rationale is the FACT, not belief, but fact, that so many of my fellow urban adventurists think they are cats out scent marking. When nature calls, here are some do's and don'ts. Do if possible have a large tinkle bottle (with cap please) handy to use. Don't empty it anywhere except a toilet. If for some stupid reason you don't have a bottle....Do find an out of the way, little travelled spot. Don't make wee wee near ANY doors etc. In fact, not near anyplace a person is likely to be. Places like out by the dumpster maybe? This may be your supermarket soon, so you certainly don't want to relieve yourself there. Do look for a patch of bare dirt. Don't tinkle on the plants and especially lawns. Your wee wee contains a little something called Uric Acid. This acid will burn lawns and kill plants dead. This is a no-no and seriously bad Ju-Ju. Do look for a puddle of water or better still, running water etc. Don't (for you guys) piss on the walls... it stains. Or concrete... same deal AND the odor lingers in either case.
"But I gots to take a poo Jen-ny."
Did I mention that it sucks to be you?
Not much in the way of options here, Extreme Camper. Use a bag. Just because dogs poop on lawns is no excuse for you to.
Also another point here. Like our restroom visits to clean up, we ideally want to leave no trace of our ever having been there. This along with being common courtesy is also in line with the TABS strategy. More on TABS at a later date.
Alrighty then. That about covers this thrilling topic. Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite. Oh, no bed.
Well then. No bed, no bugs!
See? Another unexpected advantage to Extreme Camping!
Next time: Fine Homeless Dining, or why mold can be yummy.
Till then, Take Care
I don't profess that the above is a complete list of stylish homeless accomodations but it should give you a broad overview of the possibilities and with any luck keep you a little drier.
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