For a few days in early June, I slept in my 2015 Toyota Prius. I was in deep conflict with my parents, to the point where I no longer felt happy at home. I stayed with my friends for a few days, but I began to realize that I was putting them at risk by staying in their homes. So, I stayed in my car while attending family therapy to resolve the dissonance between my parents and I. Here are the lessons I learned:
Shade is of the utmost importance
At first, I parked near a Starbucks in Falls Church to take advantage of their wifi and complete my homework for my summer class. However, as the afternoon came, my car trapped all of the heat inside. It was absolutely impossible to finish my homework while overheating in my car, and I couldn't turn the AC on and drain the battery. Finding a spot underneath a shady tree near another Starbucks was well worth driving around for an hour.
Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of taking the time to plan where I would be staying. That said, if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend you look into public restrooms before leaving. In the midst of this pandemic, many restaurants and shops have closed their public restrooms to prevent the spread of the virus, a commendable step. This means, though, that options for restrooms are limited and it may take longer than expected to find one. Be smart and plan ahead.
You will be bored out of your mind
At home, I am used to having books and my laptop and shows on my phone to keep me occupied during the day. I quickly learned that I needed to conserve the battery on my phone and my laptop as much as possible, as I could only charge them when the car was running and I was quickly burning through my gas. This restriction meant that I was stuck in my car with little to do for most hours of the day. It gets boring very quickly.
There is no comfortable way to sleep in a car
Cars are simply not made for sleeping in. I fall asleep rather easily during road trips when someone else is driving, but sleeping in a parked car is an altogether different situation. A car seat is too short to fit a full person lying down and the width of a car is also not long enough to fully extend your legs. It took me anywhere from one to two hours to fall asleep on a given night. I can promise you it is nowhere near comfortable.
Sleeping in my car allowed me to realize just how difficult it is for homeless people in this country. Every night I slept with the fear that I would be woken up to police officers shining flashlights in my face, that I could be punished for my current situation. This is a fear that homeless people face on the daily. Losing your home means losing your anchor, losing your sense of identity, and losing your stability. Anti-homelessness runs rampant in this country, in architecture and in public policy. It is difficult enough on its own to be homeless. Please help in any way you can, whether that is donating to a nearby homeless shelter or volunteering to prepare meals. And one day, if you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, hope that there will be a kind stranger there for you in return.