Homeless anywhere sucks. Wherever you are when homelessness hits affects how you react. If you have a viable support system you may never be homeless. Lucky you!!! Those of you without a support base are screwed so you do the best you can.


I was semi-homeless. I will explain; my job sucked and did not pay enough to rent even the crappiest apartment in the bad part of town. I had been in the suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area for a few years but not being a sociable person I had but a few acquaintances and no family in the area. Even if family was present I am not close to any of them and our clan is of the “rugged individualist” persuasion so no help from them… other than, perhaps, a hearty meal and a “Good luck” as I departed a couple of hours later.

I had one friend who was married with three kids living in a cramped apartment who were barely eking by. They knew I was trustworthy and I knew they were decent folks so we made a deal… I had full access to the apartment with my own key. Due to the crowded conditions and with the three kids present (5 years to 12 years old) I would use my car as my bedroom. Thus I had a place to cook and store food and watch TV and take a shower and receive a phone call and all the wonderful things that a truly homeless person may have huge difficulty having access to.

My memory of that era say it was the late 1980s to around 1992 or so. I mention that to place the amount I chipped in on the apartment in proportion to the different value of money back then. Damn inflation. Hurts the working-poor far far more than it does the top 5% where the majority of national wealth resides. I paid $250 monthly for that access. That may seem cheap now but I recall how that was a sizable portion of my income.I know that the amount I tossed into the pile helped to keep those folks in that apartment.

I was working at the only job I could find, an auto/truck dismantling/recycling firm. A wrecking yard. Some call it a junk yard. Remember, folks: All cars run on used parts. We performed a vital service but the lowly hired help in those places were on the lowest ranks of income. Honest income but the rewards for honesty can be minimal. The boss had no problem with my parking in the parking lot and sleeping there. I was a trustworthy employee so he let me have a key to the office so I could use the restroom at night. I had been sleeping in the apartment parking lot in unassigned parking spots until the manager caught me and ran me off. I could park when visiting the apartment (he did not know about my chipping in on the rent) but no sleeping in the car allowed. I was lucky to have a back-up place at work to park and sleep. There is a lesson here, folks. Being an honest trustworthy person can be beneficial. Some people get by being sneaky and self-serving and dishonest and other negative ways of living life. Maybe some or more get along better than I do but I prefer the method that most folks consider to be a positive way of living life.

Things chugged along… I did finally find a job that paid better, $13.50 hourly. Okay but not great due to high-living costs in the Bay Area. The wrecking yard boss allowed me to keep sleeping there. I was a sort of guard and my presence helped to deter thieves and vandals. The cops knew I was there. When the alarm covering the multi-acre yard with fenced-in cars went off I responded as did the cops. With office access and the alarm code I could turn the noisy thing off and the cops showed up eventually, gave a quick look through the yard then off they went.

Change is a constant. Economic changes led to the wrecking yard closing after 30 or so years in business. The land made the owner wealthy when it was sold and left me without a sleeping spot. I was forced to scout around for a new place to park at night. I knew the surrounding area that was zoned a light-industrial area. Few of the firms were open at night. The local cops knew what my bedroom on wheels looked like:


I removed the front passenger seat back-rest and place a sheet of plywood resting on the front passenger seat butt rest back atop the folded-down rear seat into the small cargo compartment. I could stretch out lengthwise atop the sheet of foam rubber used as a mattress. Sheets tucked into inner-roof openings allowed privacy and block out light, if present. Living in that tiny critter leads to my regular recommendations of owning a cargo van that allows a higher standard of homeless living.

Here is an approximation of the area I selected to park and sleep:



The buildings where I parked were three times longer than the building shown. An empty field behind gave me a place to take a leak or a dump if I had to go at night. If I had a cargo van I could have used a camping potty. It sucked to have to take a dump when it was raining. The pioneers did it when conquering a continent so I figured if they could do it so could I. Yes… I had a small shovel and like a cat I covered my stinky turds. Try to never give folks a reason to make you depart.

I was discreet and parked way in the back of the building a little ways into the large empty field. I was never bothered by cops or anybody from the several small firms located in the building. I ensured I was gone before most of the firms opened. A couple were construction related so started early but soon left to go to the job sites and they ignored me. Knowing an area helps you find a place to park and sleep. I am unsure if the cops knowing my vehicle and me from the wrecking yard days kept them away or if they never even saw me. A cargo van can allow you to avoid being noticed if you keep things cool and never draw attention to yourself. It is called “stealth living.”

During this period I was able to upgrade my vehicle. A used 1978 Toyota pick-up at an affordable price more than doubled my living area. A camper shell (shell) (topper and other terms used across the USA) kept the wind and rain off me and securing the lift-gate from inside gave security against intrusion. The extra sleeping and storage space was a blessing. Having a long-wheel-base cargo van would be penthouse-like in comparison.


The truck shown is not the one I owned but is the same type. A camper shell or other device allowing the bed area to be used as a living space is required. I have seen set-ups where the trucks rear window was removed along with the shell’s front window and a rubber seal placed between the shell and the truck cab. That allows moving from the cab to the shell without having to use the rear shell entrance. That assists with stealth living and gives a second escape route in case of emergency.

A pick-up and shell can be cheaper than a cargo van. There are more pick-ups than vans and prices for trucks seem to be lower, on average. Here are some shell-types:


Here is a home-made “shell.” It maximizes living room and allows the user to sit and stand upright. The over-the-cab portion is likely the sleeping area. A disadvantage is that the size attracts attention. Weight is a consideration. Do not overload your truck for safety and excess truck component wear factors. Stability when turning and susceptibility to winds when driving are also factors. Weight and air resistance affect gas mileage.


This is a basic no-frills shell. All aluminum thus lightweight. My past and present shells are aluminum. I can lift them to install or uninstall by myself. A handy feature and light weight has little effect on gas mileage and the air resistance may allow better mileage than with a non-covered bed. Storage is minimal and there is no room for sitting unless you sit on the bed floor with outstretched legs  but that is uncomfortable. Having room to sit as you do in a chair is best for long-term truck living.

The fiberglass style is the common type nowadays but are expensive and heavy:


I do not know if the elevated roof is tall enough to allow chair sitting. The bed-length here is short so unsure if a sleeper could stretch out full length. If desperate maybe the cab rear window and shell front window could be removed, a seal installed and a sleeping platform extended into the rear section of the cab. There is price and practicality considerations here.

A lot of modern pick-ups are extended cab styles that eat into bed room. That bed room is your bedroom when truck living!!! I shunned the 2.2 kids and white picket fence lifestyle so I was able to acquire a standard cab long-bed truck as my conveyance:

Copy of Truck Left Quarter

A bit over 8-feet long I can stretch out full length when sleeping. I have not been forced to live inside but am ready to if required. The truck is equipped with a towing package. Life quality can be greatly increased if even a tiny travel trailer is used. The truck bed can store a lot of possessions freeing up room in the trailer. There are many obvious limitations where you can park to sleep/live with a trailer in tow. Each person’s situation differs. Do what you can to maximize comfort.

If you have the money and a place to park without being bothered this may be the best way to truck-live if a trailer is not an option:


I would prefer this set-up using a long-bed truck. If the pass-through option (shell-cab connection) exists you could use the truck seats as your sitting place. Some of these truck campers have tiny on-board toilets with some having the toilet located inside a shower stall. Cramped but handy. That handiness is hampered, however, by the need to drain holding tanks and refill the fresh water tanks. Maybe the fancier models allow connecting to a fresh water source and to a sewer thus easing the chore of handling input and output. Hey… this stuff gets complicated when all the possibilities arise.



Those are jacks at the corners. Raise the camper and drive away leaving it behind so thieves can break in or steal the entire thing. If you had to drive to work and had a safe place to keep the unit the ability to separate the truck and camper could be handy. If you can live in the camper with only the jacks supporting it that opens possibilities. Maybe the camper floor requires being supported by the bed. Check into these things before buying any vehicle or camper or trailer or tend or anything you use as a home.

Use the Web!!! It is a vital resource to assist you in preparing for the calamity of homelessness or handling it if it pounces upon you unexpectedly.

I have left a lot of variables and possibilities out of this post. Poke around the Web and get other’s ideas and opinions and the many suggestions that must always be self-considered before accepting as viable. What works for one person in one place may not be true for you or Joe Blow over there in Podunk, Iowa.


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