How to Live in a Van or Car While Homeless

If you've become homeless, living out of your car or van is an alternative to sleeping on the streets.

If you've become homeless, sleep inside your car instead of on a park bench.If you've become homeless, sleep inside your car instead of on a park bench.
It offers a basic roof over your head. In fact, you can use your car or van to your advantage so you can still cook, sleep and drive within a confined space. By being organized, proactive and thinking outside of the box, you can live comfortably until you are able to move out into a more substantial space.

Tidy and empty as much clutter and rubbish out of your car or van as possible. Remove any unwanted boxes, clothes, old food cartons or bottles. Keep only the bare essentials to maximize your living space.

Create a sleeping area in the back of your car or van. You want to minimize the number of cricks you get in your neck from sleeping in the front seat, so put the back seats down. Flatten them as much as possible so you can lie lengthwise in the back. If you have a van, clear a floor space.

Obtain some cushioning to sleep on, to substitute as a mattress. You could try rummaging at a local junkyard or even use flattened cardboard boxes to give you extra padding. Put it in the space you cleared in the back.

Hang curtains on the inside of the car to give you privacy when you need it. Do this by attaching fabric -- perhaps old clothes or lengths of cloth -- to features in the car, such as the rearview mirror and passenger handles, often found on the interior's roof. Put the curtains up and down each day, so you can drive safely with the windows clear.

Invest in a cheap camping stove. This will save you heaps on dining out. Instead you can throw together some noodles in the back of your car. Check out the local thrift store for cutlery, pots and pans.

Approach restaurants, cafes or supermarkets and ask if they can give you any leftover food, or food that can no longer be sold. Often supermarkets leave food in large rubbish containers around the back of the store for disposal. Inquire if they can share it with you, instead of throwing it away.

Find free public bathrooms near parks, beaches or public swimming pools. Go there to wash and brush your teeth everyday. While you live in a small space, it may be easier to become unkempt. However, keeping yourself clean will maintain your motivation to look for a proper place to stay and you won't smell unpleasant.

Keep bottles of water in the car for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth. If you buy one big 10-liter bottle, you can keep refilling it using the water hose at a gas station or at a public bathroom. This way you can stay hydrated, which is important for good health.

Park your car in alternative locations every day, to avoid being approached by law enforcers or local people who may think you are causing problems. Park in shadowed areas so you are not disturbed by street lamps and you're more hidden away.

About the Author

Based in Bristol, Philippa Jones has been a music journalist and script writer since 2007, working across a range of radio programs in the U.K. and Australia. Her articles have appeared in "Impact Magazine," "The Mic" and in local newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from the University of Nottingham.