There has been a little travelers secret that has been around for at least 20 years. Wal-Mart will allow you to stay overnight in their parking lot, often without any sort of permission. Just park way out at the end where the regular shoppers don’t usually park and you can sleep there overnight. The best part is that anything you might need is just a few steps away.

Out Past The Lights

Next time you go to a Wal-Mart, look out at the end of the parking lot and you’ll probably see a few cars and RVs. Some might be employees but many will be people sleeping overnight in their cars. You can’t pitch a tent or anything, but as long as you’re sleeping in your car, it’s generally allowed.

There are courtesies you have to follow. It’s best to be quiet after 11 p.m. so people can sleep. If you’re disruptive because you’re drunk or something then that is not ok and you may be asked to move along. For homeless people, the privilege of a Wal-Mart parking is a godsend. Many homeless people, no matter what stage of homelessness they might be in, often use multiple Wal-Mart parking lots.

Wal-Mart parking lots aren’t always safe. Many Wal-Marts around the country have parking lot security because of the crimes that can occur in one of their expanses of asphalt. Crimes range from petty theft to murder. By and large Wal-Mart parking lots are safe and safe enough for many people to choose them as an ideal location to sleep.

A Sense of Community

One of the most touching things you’ll see is the community that has formed from the long-term Wal-Mart parking lot sleepers. They help each other out and check in on each other often to make sure that they are still alive in the morning. People struggle through health issues while using the parking lot as their home spending their nights sleeping in their cars.

It’s a positive thing that people have found a sense of community while living in a Wal-mart parking lot. However, there is still the matter that these people do not have access to quality healthcare and that they are living in a parking lot at all.

Parking Lot Socialism

To some greater to a lesser degree, it’s emblematic in our age that the best housing that can be offered is the parking lot of one of the world’s largest companies. The visual dichotomy of people sleeping rough under the beckoning glow of the large Wal-Mart sign is evocative to the problems of our time. Cities and states give companies like Wal-Mart tax breaks to move to their town, money that, if collected, could fund social services. Instead of building housing for these people, the town gets a Wal-Mart, some low-paying jobs and parking lot for homeless people.

It is telling of the current American economy: subsidies for the wealthy and a parking lot for the poor who have nowhere else to go.

Meet the Homeless of Wal-Mart parking lots in this video: