Stealthy Park & Sleep Strategies – Keeping Clean – In Shape And Connected…
After Josh’s financial collapse his only hard asset left was was his old white Astro Van…
So Josh got to work on building a makeshift van conversion. He removed all the rear seats and with the help of a friend, insulated the interior and built-out a bed frame and a double shelf unit. The shelves were 18 inches wide and 14 inches deep. Josh bought some plastic pullout storage shelves from Target and framed them with plywood, then bolted them up into the wood shelves to keep them secure.
For electricity Josh installed two deep-cycle batteries, which cost him about $120.00 for both. With a bit more work, Josh had a private place to sleep without having to resort to a homeless shelter. He gave notice to his landlord and entered the realm of urban van dweller. Surprisingly, Josh found the whole experience liberating.
Josh shared more of his story with me:
I was scared but emotionally charged at the same time. No more rent! All I needed was my laptop; some light and a twelve-volt blanket when it got cold.
Staying Clean And In Shape
I purchased a $41.00 monthly gym membership which allows me to work out and shower at any one of over 400 different locations. This is critical for me. Just because you are technically homeless doesn’t mean you have to smell like your homeless. Self-respect becomes very important as a van dweller. If you choose this kind of life, you need to be clean and well-groomed. Personally, I love the gyms. It’s a place where you can be social and have some fun. Some of these clubs even have sauna rooms and jacuzzi’s. I’m even working on my basketball game which at my age has been challenging . The funny part to all this is that I look at all these guys buffing-up and ready to take on the world…full of piss and vinegar..I don’t share my story with them…if I did I think they might get a bit jealous.
I recharge my laptop at the gym and use Skype to make telephone calls. Most of the time I just e-mail people to stay in touch….” The cost of getting your’e own mobil internet hotspot has gone down and the data download is extensive compared to just a few years ago. There are many different types of mobil plans to choose from – but you really have to hunt for the deals. Some let you can pay as you go without having to sign a contract.
Where To Park And Sleep
Finding a place to park your van at night can be tricky. The goal is stealth – especially if your in a urban environment. When I find an odd job, I want to be close to both a gym and the job. Most cities have made it illegal to sleep in your van and local police will enforce these ordinances. In case you didn’t know, being poor in most states seems to be a crime. But the urban areas are where the jobs are so I make my way into the city to make a few extra dollars when I need to – though most of the jobs I qualify for is minimum wage or sometimes you can get lucky and the small business owner will throw you some cash under the table. Did I just say that?
A Community Of Van Dwellers – Van Tips
When you’re a van dweller you meet others in the same situation and a social bond forms – you stay in touch through the Internet and most are happy to share their experiences and offer valuable tips about van dwelling.
Some Van Dwellers have converted their cargo vans into a mobile home of sorts and then try to blend into a commercial settings. One guy put a sign on the sides of his cargo van that read something stupid like, “Dicks 24-Hour Plumbing Repair” and added a humorous twist to his sign: “Call 1- 800-Got-Sewage.” No one is getting near that van! At least the guy had a sense of humor.
Stealth Parking Equals Smart Parking
If you park your van in front of a bunch of big stores your presence will usually go unnoticed which is exactly what you want. Getting woken up in the middle of a deep sleep to be told to go elsewhere is something I have still not gotten used to – it’s becoming more rare for me as I keep learning the tricks and rules of van dwelling.
If your in my situation and have an Astro Van, I make it a practice to keep my van clean. The key is not to draw attention to your presence. So I try to find a middle-class neighborhood with plenty of curb space. I arrive late and then leave early. The term stealth cannot be underestimated. You are living in a world where almost everyone lives in fear of an unfamiliar presence like a van they have not seen before on their block. So never park in the same place twice – you need to keep rotating locations.
Big late night parking lots that contain 24-hour grocery stores and super gyms can be a good waiting area until it’s late enough to relocate into your neighborhood areas for some sleep.
Boon-Docking – Free Camping
For me the safest but loneliest places to park is in the great outdoors. It’s still a beautiful experience especially if you can find a spot next to a stream. For a list of free boon-docking locations there is a database you can access from your van via internet connection called BoonDocking.org.
With an Internet connection and GPS system a van dweller can almost always find a safe and free place to sleep.