No More Overnight Parking at Wal-Mart?!


I found this image from a google search. The sign reads: NO. R.V. MOTOR HOME OR CAMPER PARKING 2 A.M. – 7 A.M. UNAUTHORIZED VEHICLES WILL BE TAGGED AND/OR TOWED AWAY AT OWNER’S EXPENSE. The sign I saw and discuss in this article did not mention hours (not that I can recall).

I admit that I’m not keen on Wal-Mart’s ethics as much as the next person (even though I also admit I’ve been there much more as of late because I’m poor(er) than usual these days and that really is one of the only options I have). But I’ll also tell you that I’ve used their parking lot once before as a place to crash out when I was inspired to do so by  –being poor — and by my colleague whose research is on people who are unhoused and take up residency in their vehicles, as well as my curiosity to see what it was like to actually sleep in a car willingly — which I did for the first time a couple years back when in town for a friend’s wedding. It was actually OK. I actually enjoyed it. It opened up an entirely new world for me one that had me intrigued and sad. I was intrigued because before my experience, I had no idea people did this. I was also sad seeing people with small children entering the parking lot late in the evening for their overnight rest.

This time I came to town to visit and there was nowhere for me to stay at the visitee’s home — which wasn’t a problem. I had literally just spent more money than I should have on Airbnbs and motels while traveling the weeks prior so there was no way I had the money and if I did — wouldn’t be willing to fork it over to another establishment. I thought that I’d again just park myself and my rental car in the nearest 24-hour Wally World and peace out until the morning. It was the same store I’d stayed at before and I was more than OK with it. That was my plan. But that didn’t happen. I was somewhat surprised by this. Somewhat because when I told my oldest sister (who tried to discourage me) before I flew into town, of my plans to take up hotel parking lot for a couple of weeks, she told me that she heard/read since there are many people who have been doing this, the chain has gotten strict(er). But when the day came and when I pulled up in the parking lot I looked for signs banning this activity. I saw one that read NO OVERNIGHT RV or CAMPER VANS — VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED — something like that. I read it twice, and didn’t think it was directed at me because I was in neither of those vessels. I was in a compact 4-door Toyota Corolla.

I was TIRED. I had driven 12 hours straight from Utah to Southern California on this particular day, just last week, and couldn’t wait to get in bed — better known as — back seat. And I got all cozied up, with both my hoodie and bath towel serving as makeshift curtains, one on each of the back windows. And at about 11-something that night I crashed. Then at about 1- something AM I woke up to a knock on my window. It was a young early-20-ish Asian kid dressed in all black with some security company inscribed on the front of his shirt, telling me that there’s no overnight parking. He wasn’t rude at all. He was actually patient, as he realized I was still half asleep, trying to comprehend what he was saying. I reckon I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was the only car around, even though there were plenty others when I first laid myself down to sleep, LOL. I was sort of devastated because I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I didn’t want to pull over on a side street. I hadn’t done that before and especially wouldn’t be willing in a car opposed to a van. I wouldn’t feel safe, especially with cops cruising the streets. I didn’t want to pay for an expensive hotel and didn’t know where else to go. I drove to the next closest Wal-Mart about 10 minutes away, but saw it was closed — and even they had a sign that limited parking to a maximum of 2 hours. So I drove around a bit more. I stopped in a Denny’s parking lot to contemplate my next moves but couldn’t think of where to go. Then I drove about 10 minutes more and found an area where I noticed a crowd of homeless people gathered and thought this was interesting and do I decided to pul in. There were many of them sleeping on the ground — about 10-15, with a handful of others sleeping in their cars or vans. It was a serious shock to me to see this but it was also obvious they were all welcomed there by whoever owns or oversees the property. Because of this that’s where I have stayed for several nights. I’m thankful for the area that I found. It’s clean, central and I feel safe every night. It was also great because it was close by a community center that I went to and paid the drop-in rate for the small gym and use of the shower.

I’d be curious to know if any of you have ever had an issue with parking at Wal-Mart. My first and only time was in December 2015 when I was in town for my friend’s wedding and thought I’d do it again but as we see that didn’t happen. What changed? What caused the prohibition to overnight parking guests? I don’t know the backstory, except for that vehicle dwelling is on the rise and so that can cause problems if people gather too much, but can someone give me any other info? Any details? Also, what have you done if you planned on sleeping in a spot that wasn’t available? What did you do?

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One comment

  1. […] I recently blogged about being in California on vacation and sleeping in my rental car. This was a choice that I made because I wanted to, to save money, because I’ve done it before and because I’m OK with it. And I’m so glad I did that because it really gave me great perspectives on how people are living and how I can relate to them. When I saw about 15-20 homeless people in sleeping bags, on the side of the particular building I parked at overnight and others who were sleeping in their cars and vans — I wondered even moreso about the boundaries of Buddhism — the boundaries of enlightenment. The people I saw were totally and completely homeless, living out of a few bags they carry around with them, and hanging out at the library all day. I began thinking how much trouble they’d have attempting to practice and getting the full benefits of Buddhism. If new people cannot receive Omamori, what could they do? Sure, it’s easy to say ‘well, you don’t need a Gohonzon to chant,’ but that’s truly beside the point and dismisses the inquiry into this form of social inequality. Sure, one can say they can find a center head there, chant with others and practice that way — but even I had a vehicle and it was difficult — it took at least a good 20 minutes to get to the center in Santa Ana — on the freeway! […]


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