For those who have cars, many consider their vehicle as a second sanctuary next to their home. The safety of the walls and the traveling convenience can be so reassuring. If you think about it, we actually spend just as much time in our car than in our home. In fact, so much that some people sleep in it!
Some of the common places that people sleep in their car are church parking lots. Whether it is illegal or not depends on where you live and, of course, the owners. In addition to the safety of being inside the car, the spiritual nature of church parking lots makes people feel even safer than sleeping at other places.
Sometimes, sleeping at church parking lots is more of an avoiding embarrassment thing as churchgoers tend to be less judgmental. Also, a lot of churches provide safe parking places specifically for those who are temporarily homeless or just need some time off from home (whatever the reason may be). There are even some that offer other forms of help and resources as well, such as bathrooms or kitchens they could use.
Is it Safe to Sleep in a Church Parking Lot?
Assuming you can legally sleep in a church parking lot in your area, your next concern would be your safety. Although most criminals won’t target a person sleeping in a vehicle, let alone at a church, you could still feel vulnerable from being outside. If you’re in a situation where sleeping in a parking lot is the only option you have, here are some tips to protect yourself and feel safe.
One of them is camouflage. It would be advantageous if you have tinted windows. People tend to be afraid of what they can’t see, so this will certainly keep onlookers away. If you do not have tinted windows, you can use tarps or blankets to cover them. It is also important to not sleep in your vehicle with the engine running. Aside from the attractive engine sound, this can also cause your car to fill with poisonous carbon monoxide.
Why Do People Sleep in Parking Lots?
There are various reasons people find themselves sleeping in their car, and it’s not always because of emergency circumstances. Sometimes it is just for fun or experience, for adventure, and sometimes it sounds like an exhilarating thing to add to the bucket list. Another common reason is it’s cheap! Instead of spending money in campgrounds or hotels if you’re doing some traveling, you can easily turn your vehicle into a comfy and safe sleeping nest.
Commercial businesses that offer accommodation for travelers are too expensive nowadays, so a night at a hotel can be a bit hefty. Thus, many would rather sleep in their car and look for a safe parking lot to rest overnight at. It’s also easy to just stop and sleep, so parking lots can sometimes be very tempting when on a road trip.
Others, on the other hand, do not choose to sleep in a parking lot for pleasure or convenience. Those who do not have a place they call home find shelter in their vehicles, so don’t always get fascinated by people you see sleeping in parking lots.
Oftentimes, sleeping at parking lots is because these people do not feel safe in their neighborhood or residents in their community might scoff them, so they find shelter elsewhere. This is why church parking lots have been an ideal refuge for the homeless who are looking for a safe zone during the nights. While they are working to stabilize their lives, these grounds are a great place to meet their needs of living in a secure and safe location until they can move on and into a permanent home.
Where Else Can I Sleep in the Car Legally?
Perhaps, you are just on the road, sleepy and tired, and in need of a power nap or a safe place to rest your eyes and body from a long drive. Being on the road, booking a hotel room may not be a practical solution.
If you don’t see any churches anywhere in sight, then there are other locations you can pull over and get some rest at. Here is a shortlist of some places that provide space for overnight parkers:
- Truck Stops – On main roads or highways, you can find several truck stops along the way that will allow you to park overnight and have a rest in your car. These stops are designed for truck drivers as their job description requires them to drive for long hours during the days or nights. You don’t necessarily need to secure a permit because most of them provide services for road trippers too. Just search for a closest truck stop exit sign, and you’ll be fine. It does, however, help to find information about these policies, so you know what to expect.
- Restaurants and Shops – While some of these businesses provide an official policy that allows overnight parkers as additional service to their offering, others have information policy regarding this. Either way, it is smart to call ahead and confirm before you sleep in their parking lot. Some might just allow you to sleep in their parking lot for a few hours and not necessarily overnight due to local ordinances that restrict this practice. But, it helps to have hope that the owner will be kind enough to help you out.
- Gas Stations – Although this does not apply to all gas stations, it is still possible to pull over into a big gas station to rest. However, this may not be the quietest place to sleep since they can be busy 24 hours a day with cars and trucks dropping by to fill up. At least you can have peace of mind knowing that it’s safe because of the many light posts and the constant traffic coming in.
Obviously, there are more locations not included in this list that legally permit people to sleep in their parking lot. Regardless of the place, it is important to know the local policies and make sure you contact them to know the rules and ensure your safety. Also, be respectful of their laws and keep your safety in mind at all times.
How to Sleep in a Parking Lot Peacefully?
Regardless of the reason for sleeping in your car, comfort and safety should be your top priority. There could be some hidden dangers to sleeping in your vehicle, so it is best to know how to do it properly, especially if this is something you see doing for quite a while.
- Make sure you have all your essentials in the car – Warm blankets, a bag of snacks and water, an emergency kit, a flashlight, and sleeping bags are a must to keep in your trunk for a night in your car. Thankfully, these items don’t take up a lot of space, so they can mean the difference between a secure and comfortable sleep and prevent an overnight disaster.
- Get yourselves comfortable – Of course, sleeping in your car wouldn’t be as comfortable as being tucked in your own soft bed with cushy pillows. But, you can always try your best to make it a convenient one. It’d be wise to invest in a compact camping pillow (view on Amazon) and an insulated blanket. Plus, once you’ve gotten your life straight, at least you now have some camping gear. Also, figure out where you will fit comfortably. Rather than trying to get comfortable in your back seat, find a good sleeping position, and maximize the space of your car.
- Try to reduce as much noise and light as possible – We all know that sleeping in a parking lot may not be the quietest option to achieve a good night’s sleep, but you can always try to minimize noise and block out light. Use noise-canceling headphones (view on Amazon) or earplugs to bring you some peace and a sleep mask can solve your problem with the outside lights.
- Be inconspicuous and don’t leave a mess – Remember, you are using someone else’s property to rest, and you might even be doing it for free. Therefore, the last thing you are expected to do is to make a mess. Be discreet and leave a good impression so that the owner will continue to allow others the chance to use their parking lot too.
- Stay clean – Sleeping in your vehicle often means you would not have access to showers and sinks. In this case, you should still aim to keep yourself clean and stay hygienic. Make sure that you are equipped with a toiletry kit perfect for road travels, such as items that do not require much water like alcohol wipes or sanitizers. Nobody likes to look at an unclean or dirty person, especially if they’ve come out from sleeping in their car. You don’t ever want people to be suspicious of you; otherwise, you’ll make it harder for yourself to sleep in parking lots.
Conclusion – Is It Illegal to Sleep in a Church Parking Lot?
People living or even just sleeping in their vehicles for a night need just as much of a safe and secure place to be in. Churches are generally the best place. If you find yourself needing to sleep in a church parking lot or in some areas where it is allowed and legal, make sure you do your part by respecting their regulations and policies. Who knows, you might even realize that God was behind the wheel this whole time.