My Survival Story: Living in my Car for over a Year

From August 25th 2012 until over a year later, I slept and lived in my car in Los Angeles, California.

I moved to Los Angeles for a dream and did not realize how expensive it was to live there. So I began planning in my head and thinking how I might save money and how I might get out of the frustrating living situation I was in at the time.

I decided living and sleeping in my car was an idea that would satisfy both of those things I wanted for my life in Los Angeles. It was truly a survival experience.

Throughout my time sleeping and living in my car, I learned a tremendous amount. It was a very tough time as well. But it did in fact help me achieve my goals of saving money and being able to live “on my own” in my car.

It didn’t come easy getting that life though. There were many learning experiences. I began writing a book while I was sleeping in my car, about how to survive living in one’s car.

There are many different aspects when it comes to sleeping and living in a car successfully. Living in your car takes a plethora of survival skills. It truly is a “survival” experience attempting to live in your car.

I was doing this so I could save money and get ahead in life. You have to sacrifice in life if you want to get ahead in life. That’s what I have learned. Especially in this economy today, you never know when hardship may hit and having these survival skills in your pocket may just save your life one day when you experience hardship. I did have a job and no one would have ever guessed I slept in my car and that is how it should be. More attention is worse when living in one’s car.

I saved a great deal of money and had extra money I wouldn’t have had if I was paying rent somewhere. I would have had no money for anything else if I had to pay $1000 each month for rent like many others in Los Angeles.

Many Tough Times

In my time sleeping in my car, I had many different tough times of different sorts.

I moved to Los Angeles and did not really know anyone. When I began sleeping in my car it was a scary time. I had no friends and I didn’t really know anyone. I knew if I tried to make some friends eventually they would find out I lived in my car and wouldn’t accept me anyway. How would I get a date I thought to myself? Who would date someone living in his car?

After a long day at work as a security guard, walking around, patrolling, writing reports, I would get off and have to go sit at McDonalds for a few hours until it got dark.

Many people complain because they are already so tired after a hard day at work but then they get to go home and relax and lay down on the couch and talk to their friends or family.

After my long hard day, I could not just go lay down and relax somewhere. I always had to wait until it got dark outside before I could go to sleep at my spot. There was no way to lay down in the back of my car while the sun was out. It was much too hot out to do that. I had to go sit in a fast food place around a bunch of strangers until it got dark.

It was tough not having anyone around to help me out and no one to hang out with in the beginning when I didn’t really know anyone. It was quite a lonely life. I felt like I constantly had to be on guard against everything. I had to watch out for homeless people walking around the streets when I was going to the store to get some food. My back tail light was broken so I had to be careful not to get stopped by cops because it only drew more attention to myself. Though cops usually respected that I lived in my car – the ones I came across, anyway.

Many times I was in the back of my car at night, with all my towels up over my windows, worried and wondering when I would get a break from all this. When I’d get to have a normal life and have friends and be able to come home to watch TV and make a steak.

I cried a couple times in my car when I felt absolutely hopeless. Most of the time I was very thankful for the life I had. I was glad I had my car. I had a computer. I had a job. I essentially had everything I needed. I knew I had no reason to be ungrateful. I knew there were many others in Los Angeles and around the world who were a lot less fortunate than I was.

It did feel like a never ending cycle at times though. Doing the same thing every day. Always alone.

I moved here to achieve a dream and I got this. It was rough. But I always tried to keep in mind how thankful I was for everything I had.

Lessons Learned

There are many important aspects to surviving while living in one’s car. The key thing I found to living in my car successfully was keeping a low profile in all I did. That way, I could have the longevity to stay in my car as long as I needed to.

Overall, it was sort of an adventure living in my car. I learned a lot. I became a lot stronger than I had previously been before I came to Los Angeles and lived in my car. It made me realize what I am capable of, and that I can adapt to any situation.

My advice for anyone who is homeless or sleeping in their car would be that you have to stay mentally strong and continually aware and focused on everyone and everything around you. Pray a lot. Keep your head up. Always know it is not forever and is only a temporary situation. You will get out.

I have also written another article about several specific tips and tricks that I learned while I was living in my car. Please check back here for that article soon.

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This post was written by JC


  • caroline says:

    I really enjoyed your story. Such courage and strength to step right out of your comfort zone. I wonder if you managed to stay safe. I look forward to reading your next article

  • Pat says:

    I gotta wonder why he was so alone. There is a 12 step program called ARTS – Artists in Recovery with the Twelve Steps – that uses the same 12 steps as AA. The “ism” for participants is that they are struggling to do their art. Painters, poets, photographers, actors, screenwriters, novelists, even a lady who made fruit sculptures and had trouble because her art was always eaten! He could have found a community of friends and like-minded people the first day he was in town.

  • TommyD says:

    I too lived in the front seat of a Ranger pickup for a year here in New England. It was tough during the winter, but I had good blankets. The main problem was finding a place where nobody would complain or call the cops.

    I found that 24 hr. grocery or other stores were best if I parked in an out of the way place on the lot. I never used the same place two nights in a row either. Unemployed, and with food stamps, I survived on canned or deli food if I wanted a hot meal. Today I would probably look for a 12 volt powered coffee pot…

  • terri jo says:

    Wonderful how we are able to turn hardship into lessons and strength! More than awesome, and thank you young man.

  • tim says:

    Great job! Way to make lemonade from the lemons. Compared to your experience, I had it easy. I used a van with blocked out windows and showered at the community college. The fear, especially of cops, and loneliness are enormous to handle. You made it, bro!

  • Maggie says:

    Good idea for an article. I used to work in a clinic where many of my patients were homeless. Some people would look homeless even if they had a place to live. Some, you would never know. I always thought my patients that did well while homeless should do a group for the other patients.

  • Michael Ford says:

    Thanks for sharing your story with us! Inspiration for others who are persevering through hard times, for one reason or another.

    I recently made a big transition in my own life, to follow my dreams. I learned a lot about being frugal and stretching a small budget. But, I was lucky enough to have great friends who gave me a good home with cheap rent. I’m not sure I would have made it if I had to live in my car, like you did. Well done, sir.

  • Steve says:

    Well done and I do know what you went through. When I got out of the Marines in 1963 I worked all over the country. Then in 1966 I ended up living in my $2200 Pontiac for over a year. Worked everywhere and had many exciting adventures as well as learning to live and survive and cry now and then in loneliness.

    Would not trade that experience for the world. It was great.

  • You are a brave guy and I admire your gumption. I encourage you to reach out to people more.
    I found nice people at the Unity and Church of Religious Science when I lived in LA. I also enjoyed
    spending time at the beach and at the Self-Realization Center near Pacific Coast Highway. People will be more loving to you as you let them in. God Bless!

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