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Featured Experts
Dr. Graham Pruss
Dr. Graham PrussPostdoctoral Scholar at the University of San Francisco's Benioff Homelessness & Housing Initiative with the Center for Vulnerable Populations
Marybeth Shinn
Marybeth ShinnProfessor at Vanderbilt University
Bill Kirlin-Hackett
Bill Kirlin-HackettDirector at Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, The Rev. (M.Div.)
Antoine Lovell
Antoine LovellSubject Matter Expert on Homelessness, Housing and Community Development
Jennifer Hark Dietz
Jennifer Hark DietzExecutive Director at PATH
Written by:

Homelessness was on the rise prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic has contributed significantly to the increasing numbers of people who have found themselves unable to continue to afford their homes. For some, living out of a vehicle is a last-ditch effort to retain a semblance of shelter. However, this comes with unique challenges, including legal implications.

If you consider your vehicle your home and you'll be inhabiting public spaces while living in your car, you need to be connected with resources to access social services and support. Additionally, it's crucial that your vehicle is registered correctly and that you're aware of the laws and regulations around parking in public spaces. There are resources available to keep your car safe and legal to live in until you're able and ready to transition into a home. In this guide, you'll find valuable information on maintaining independence, getting and keeping car insurance and registration and building a plan for moving from your vehicle back into a home.

Why Are People Living in Their Cars?

People live in their vehicles for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’ve already sought out social services and believe it’s not an option for them, they may think their family might be disrupted if they enter a shelter, they may have a criminal background and get denied services or they may just choose to live in their vehicle because it’s more affordable.

“All people choose to live in their form of housing from their perceived options,” says Dr. Graham Pruss of the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative. “People who choose to live in their vehicles do so for many different reasons. Whether it's affordable housing, snowbirds, or a temporary way to avoid homelessness, there are ways you can avoid being criminalized and avoid harm when sleeping on public streets.”

An illustration of a man sitting on the rear bumper of his car with the trunk open.

There are several serious and compelling reasons why people live in their cars, including the following:

1

Increased rental rates

Rent continues to rise in most of the U.S. The average rent has increased by 3.2% in the last five years, which has led to 29% of renters paying more than they initially budgeted for housing. Nearly two-thirds of Americans reported being stressed out about paying rent each month before the pandemic. In 2019, Americans earning the federal minimum wage amount would need to work 127 hours a week to afford the average national rent for a two-bedroom apartment.

2

There’s an income-rent gap in the U.S.

Along with the fact that rents are going up, the average household income has not increased enough to keep up with inflation. Between 2001 and 2018, household income rose .5%, but rent rose nearly 13%, leaving renters struggling to pay for housing.

3

Lack of affordable housing

There is not enough affordable housing to go around for all who need it. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), only 36 affordable and available homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.

4

Social services are underfunded

For families that are facing homelessness, seeking assistance from social services is a natural step. However, continued budget cuts and the repercussions of COVID-19 have left social services organizations severely underfunded and unable to help.

5

Social services are not available

Some people living in their cars have looked into social services and don't find them a viable option for various reasons. For example, individuals with a criminal background might not qualify for services. Families might not want to go into a shelter if it requires them to live apart from each other. Senior citizens may not want to leave their community or face increased health risks from living in a group setting.

6

Unexpected evictions

Through job loss, illness or other serious reasons, people may end up evicted from their homes through no fault of their own. Many people who had steady jobs and were able to pay their rent or mortgage before COVID-19 have lost their jobs since the pandemic. While the government has placed a moratorium on evictions through the end of 2020, this is expected to expire. Once it does, millions of Americans will be in danger of losing their homes.

7

Some people want to

Not everyone who is living in their car has been forced to do so. Some people choose to live in their vehicles to save money and travel easily. This is especially true for individuals who live in RVs.

How to Keep Your Car Compliant for Vehicular Residency

An illustration of a young person putting personal belongings, such as luggage, blanket and boxes, in the car's trunk.

Whether you're living in your car for a week, a month or for the foreseeable future, there are a variety of things you can do to keep your vehicle compliant with local and national laws and maintain your independence. Ensuring you obtain and keep adequate car insurance and self-identification while assuring your vehicle is registered correctly is an excellent way to stay safe and legal while also serving as a good step toward finding a home.


Why is auto insurance so important for people living in their cars?This is an icon

Car insurance is required in every state except for New Hampshire. However, even in New Hampshire, you have to prove that you can afford any damages that might result from an accident out of pocket. If you're caught driving or living in your car without car insurance in the rest of the country, you could be fined, or your vehicle could be taken away.

Every state varies on their laws regarding insurance, but being caught without it could result in fines of several hundred dollars up to several thousand dollars. Ultimately, being caught without insurance will most likely cost you more than having the minimum amount of coverage on your vehicle.

What kind of insurance should you get?This is an icon

Every state has a minimum requirement for bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. The amount of mandated coverage varies by state. For example, in Arizona, you must have a $15,000 bodily injury liability limit per person, a $30,000 maximum for all bodily injuries to be paid for any one accident and a $10,000 maximum for property damage per accident. In some states, these numbers are much higher.

If you are still making car payments on your vehicle, you are required by law to have collision insurance. In some states, you're also required to have uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage.

  • Bodily injury liability insurance: Pays for any medical bills and lost wages for a third-party if you’re in an at-fault accident.
  • Property damage liability insurance: Pays to repair or replace a third-party vehicle, building or structure if you’re in an at-fault accident.
  • Collision insurance: Covers any repairs or damages to your vehicle due to a collision with another car or object. It does not cover an encounter with wild animals.
  • Uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist coverage: Covers the cost of damages and repair to your vehicle if you’re in an accident with an uninsured motorist. This coverage is only required in Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Caroline, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
How can you get insurance?This is an icon

Obtaining insurance when you’re living in your car presents some challenges. For one, some insurance companies require a permanent address. Here are the steps you can take to obtain car insurance while living out of your vehicle.

  1. Understand your states’ insurance requirements. Every state has a minimum insurance requirement. Knowing this number will help you understand what type of insurance you need and how much you need. Obtaining the minimum required amount of insurance can save you money on your insurance premiums. You can learn what your state's minimum requirements are through the American Insurance Institute, or speak with a local insurance agent.
  2. Educate yourself on the cost and factors that affect insurance rates. Insurance companies look at a variety of factors when determining insurance premiums. Age, gender, driving record, location, vehicle make and model and even how often you drive can all impact how much you’ll pay.
  3. Determine how much coverage you need: Understanding your state's requirements and the factors that affect insurance should determine how much insurance you need. From here, you can start by shopping for the minimum amount of car insurance coverage you need for your state and get an idea of what it's going to cost you.
  4. Get a copy of your driving record. You can obtain a copy of your driving record by going to your local DMV and requesting your records or requesting them online through a DMV online portal.
  5. Obtain an address. If the insurance company insists on a permanent address, reach out to friends and family to see if you can use their address, see if local churches and social service organizations can offer assistance, or pay a small fee to the U.S. Postal Service for a mail address.
  6. Shop for low-income insurance: Some states offer low-income car insurance assistance for individuals and families who meet earning requirements. This can help you find an insurance premium you can afford.
  7. Get Quotes from at least three companies: Use an online quote tool to quickly and effectively shop for the best and cheapest car insurance that meets your needs and your state’s legal requirements.
Car Insurance Challenges and Solutions
ChallengeSolution
Obtaining a permanent addressPay a small fee to the U.S. Postal Service to receive a dedicated mailbox where you can receive mail and have a verifiable address.
Finding an affordable rateAsk auto insurance providers what discounts are available to see if you are eligible for any premium discounts.
Meeting state requirements for insurance minimumsEvery state has a minimum requirement for insurance. You can use the Insurance Information Institute to determine your state's requirements and ensure you have the coverage that fits.
Getting multiple quotesIf you have internet access, you can get multiple insurance quotes to shop prices. If you're living in your car, you're in exceptional circumstances and may want to seek out an insurance agent to explain your situation. They can help you shop for different insurance options.

Getting a Driver's License

Obtaining a driver's license while living out of your car may seem like an inconvenience, but there are a variety of reasons why you should keep your license up-to-date or get one if you don’t have one.

Why should I keep my driver’s license or get one?

It's illegal to drive without a license, so if you plan to move your vehicle or use it for transportation, you want to make sure you're not breaking the law.

Your driver's license also serves as a form of identification, which you'll need when trying to obtain insurance, purchase a new vehicle or register your vehicle. Proper identification is critical in accessing services and benefits that can help you transition back into a home. Without identification, it's more challenging to get a job, find a place to live, open a bank account, get food stamps and disability benefits or even move into a homeless shelter.

Massachusetts is just one of the states working to make it easier for those living with homelessness to obtain an ID, but it's best to call your local DMV to understand the identification laws in your state.

Driver’s License Challenges and Solutions
ChallangeSolution
You need to provide a physical address to obtain a driver’s license.Some states offer a "no-fixed address" option where you can use additional information to obtain a driver's license.
You need proof of residence at the address you provide to the DMV.Often, you can use a bank account statement instead of providing a utility bill or rental agreement.
Obtaining a photo ID or driver's license costs money.Speak with your local DMV to see if they have programs in place to waive the fees for those living with homelessness. You can also seek local shelters to get resources for assistance.
You'll need multiple forms of identification to get a driver's license.You can obtain a copy of your birth certificate from the state in which you were born.

Steps for Registering Your Vehicle

If you live in your car, you want to register it so that you aren't punished for owning a vehicle illegally. You most likely need a permanent address to register your vehicle, but here's how you can register it even if you don't have a permanent address.

1

Obtain the title of the vehicle

Make sure that the vehicle title is in your name and no one else's. Suppose you purchase a car from a private party. In that case, you can ask for the paper title and take it with additional documentation such as proof of insurance and the transfer of title form to your local DMV to get the title in your name. If you move to another state, you’ll need to contact your insurance provider to get your insurance transferred to your new state. States require different documentation, so it's best to look into what your local DMV requires before heading in.

2

Pass a safety and emissions test

You cannot register a vehicle if it has not passed a safety and emissions test. You can get this test done at local car shops for a reasonably low price.

3

Have proof of insurance

You will need proof of insurance to register your car. You can get this from your insurance provider.

4

Fill out vehicle registration forms

Each state will have a set of vehicle registration forms that need to be filled out. These can be found online or directly at the DMV.

5

Find a local DMV

You can locate your local DMV by doing a quick online search. You can also find a list of DMVs across the United States on the DMV website.

6

Use temporary license plates

The DMV may provide you with temporary license plates while your permanent plates are being processed. Make sure to use these plates so that you are not pulled over for driving without an adequately plated vehicle.

7

Prepare to pay fees

Registering a vehicle is not free, so you'll want to be financially prepared to pay the associated costs. Fees will depend on your vehicle model, make and year.

Registration Challenges and Solutions
ChallangeSolution
Presenting proof of auto insurance.Follow the recommended steps listed above for obtaining insurance when living out of your vehicle.
Accessing the internet to find proper forms and DMV locations.Head to a local library. Public libraries offer free access to technology and the internet.
Obtaining the title of a vehicle.Only purchase a vehicle that includes a paper title that can be transferred into your name
Presenting a permanent address.Obtain a mailbox from the USPS or ask a friend to use their home address so you can present a permanent address if necessary.

Expert Insight on Vehicular Residency

MoneyGeek spoke with industry leaders and academics to provide expert insight on vehicular residency. The answers below are from experts in academia and professional organizations that directly help those facing homelessness transition back into a home.

  1. How has COVID-19 impacted vehicular residency?

    Since the start of 2020, cities across the U.S. have reported an increase in public vehicle residency, "safe parking programs" and anti-vehicle residency policies and law enforcement. The COVID-related closure of local, regional and national parks or open spaces such as BLM areas has displaced thousands of vehicle residents who called those places home. Some vehicle residents and people experiencing homelessness could be at a lower risk of COVID infection because they are already isolated and often in tight-knit communities resistant to outside carriers. Likewise, many unhoused neighbors may not have the extra income or savings to participate in activities at locations where public infection is more common such as shopping areas, live social events or food and beverage establishments.

    Many people feel unsafe in shelters where they live cheek by jowl with strangers, and some winter shelter programs, particularly those operated by congregations, are not opening this year or have reduced capacity. The fears are not unreasonable. Shelters have too often become COVID-19 hotspots, so we’re seeing a rise in unsheltered homelessness in many locations. People who have vehicles may choose to stay in them rather than going to a homeless shelter.

    When it comes to directly getting COVID-19, the response is similar to the general public. We've heard of some who say they had COVID and recovered. It's not clear how many more serious cases may be occurring unless perhaps public health has a tracking at hospital admittance. Regarding how it's impacted the number of people choosing to live in their vehicle, I believe more people will be in vehicles when the eviction moratorium ends. We fear hundreds of thousands across the country.

    COVID-19 exposed an already-existing housing affordability crisis and further pushed those at the margin of society into homelessness. Since homelessness is a lagging indicator of poverty, COVID-19 increased extreme income poverty, most notably by forcing those in already unstable housing into substandard conditions. With mass evictions as a sign of economic instability due to COVID-19, an unfortunate housing option for families experiencing homelessness has been through vehicle residency. While vehicle residency is not officially tracked by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), what has been shown is an upward trend in the use of vehicles as a housing option, specifically among unsheltered populations.

    COVID upended life for the entire nation. For families and friends who were living in overcrowded situations, there was a fear of contracting the virus. If someone became sick, there was no way to self-isolate. Many individuals were pushed out into their cars as they struggled to keep loved ones safe. With many cities relaxing parking citations, we have also seen that individuals are parking in areas where transitionally our outreach teams were not as active, such as residential communities.

  2. What is the biggest challenge to overcome when people try to make the transition from vehicular residency back into a home? How can they overcome this challenge?

    One of the most difficult challenges in assisting vehicle residents is a lack of private space for a vehicle residence in social services and housing systems. When parked in public space, the habitation of a vehicle is a federal determinant of "homelessness." However, when in a private space such as an RV or mobile home park, a vehicle residence tends to be seen as low-income housing. Americans from all walks of life choose to live in their vehicle as a form of affordable housing within their limited options. Many people who inhabit vehicles view these as homes and do not consider themselves homeless. They may reject beneficial homeless social services due to their social stigmatization and individual perception of emergency shelters, fear of family breakup, legal history or lack of access to long-term medical and hospice care. Without a private space for vehicle residents, they tend to see few options but to inhabit public space.

    The biggest challenge is paying the rent, along with assembling the funds, e.g., first month’s rent, security deposit, necessary to move in. Finding a job in the face of unemployment due to COVID is especially challenging. Finding a willing landlord can also be a problem if someone does not have secure income or has a history of eviction.

    There are many "biggest challenges." These include access to the system that manages entries for low-income housing when there is no norm for including them into the system, adequate income sources via work or benefits and creating and sustaining a goal-oriented pathway consisting of the need to shift some relationships that have been built. That's just on their side of the effort, meaning that the lack of available, affordable housing often plants them onto waitlists.

    One of the biggest challenges facing vehicle residents is public policy and current law. Living in one's vehicle is clearly a manifestation of indigency. Harmful circumstances and some personal errors combine exponentially for many. In our state, indigency is recognized in many ways throughout the state revised code, and allowances are made for not having money, especially for legal representation and other circumstances. When it comes to people living in a vehicle, it seems indigency is hard for elected officials and guiding public departments to comprehend. Instead of creating pathways to safety, they shun detours from established law and often add legal debt to the already burdensome circumstances. Outreach to those living in vehicles is less than 1% of the total spent on homelessness in our area, even while 50% of unsheltered people in the region live in cars.

    Experiencing homelessness is traumatic. With trauma comes a whole host of short- and long-term risk factors that can pose a challenge to housing stability; however, these issues can be mitigated with proper social and economic support. Some of the risk factors associated with vehicular residency include compromised health, employment stability, substance misuse and continuing economic vulnerability. Depending on the location, there have been services put into place by governmental entities to support those that experience vehicular residency.

    For many, a car might be the first place they have experienced homelessness after the loss of a job or eviction. It can create a sense of safety in a crisis situation. Integrating back into the cost associated with living in a home can be daunting; however, helping to transition the feeling of safety into their permanent home can be supported by case management and service provider staff.

  3. What resources should individuals/families living in their car seek out in their home cities?

    Addressing the diverse needs of people who use vehicles to inhabit public parking requires varied approaches. For example, in recent years, communities across the U.S. have reproduced the safe parking program model developed by New Beginnings of Santa Barbara, California. These safe parking sites offer short-term private space to help connect the inhabitants of vehicles with a local social services system and meet their specific needs. While Los Angeles has successfully scaled safe parking spaces through a mix of municipal, private and public lots (reportedly serving roughly 1,500 vehicle residents per year), other cities have struggled to scale when only relying on space provided by faith-based organizations. In addition, supportive parking sites offer indefinite private space to help connect a vehicle residence with a local housing system. As historic forms of affordable housing, low-income RV and mobile home parks are familiar models that provide infrastructure, safety and inclusive space for Americans to occupy their private property legally.

    Every community in the United States is part of a “continuum of care” — an administrative entity used to apply for HUD funds for homeless services. And most of these homeless service systems have “coordinated entry systems” to set priorities for who should get the inadequate amounts of help they have to distribute. In light of COVID-19, funds have been augmented by the federal CARES Act. So the individual or family should get in touch with their local coordinated entry system to try to get help. Usually, calling 2-1-1 will get you there.

    If one has a disability, it is necessary to utilize a case manager to obtain SSDI benefits, which can become a resource for obtaining housing. Other immediate survival needs are available such as food cards, gas cards, clothing distribution, PPE materials and mobile medical vans. Some of these are less available nationally, such as mobile medical vans. Often, local congregations provide meals and other relief items, such as socks and coats, occasionally doing laundry and minor repairs such as addressing flat tires and batteries.

    Using a community-wide approach, The CDC has made recommendations on best practices for addressing COVID-19 among unsheltered homeless populations. Among these recommendations are resources available to unsheltered homeless people, such as access to healthcare, law enforcement, homeless service providers and housing through municipalities and peer support. Many of these resources were funded through the CARES Act and allocated through HUD into Emergency Solution Grants (ESG). Also, safe parking programs have been implemented at several locations to address vehicle residency. Depending on the location, municipalities have carved out spaces with security for those experiencing vehicular residency.

    It is critical for individuals to connect to their local continuum of care/coordinated entry system to ensure they have been assessed for short and long-term housing resources. Additionally, many locations have safe parking available, which wraps services around a location to allow safe overnight parking. If an individual is unaware of how to link into the coordinated entry system, local political offices generally have knowledge and information about safe parking locations within their community.

  4. For individuals and families living in their cars, what do you recommend for staying safe?

    Seek help. Many social services and programs can assist you, including some that may help you navigate the courts and pay off tickets. Beware all open flames. An open fire in your vehicle can quickly burn, suffocate and kill you. Take a brief walk every day. Sitting for long periods can cause water and blood to pool in your legs (edema), eventually leading to painful sores, lesions and immobility. Look up the local parking laws online, including where you can park your specific vehicle overnight (larger vehicles such as an RV or school bus are often required to park within industrial zones). Always follow the local laws. Relocate within the required time limits, make sure your registration is current and don't let your tickets go into collection (if possible). Be a good neighbor. Keeping the area near your home clean and acting as a respectful community member helps build and maintain trust.

    It’s incredibly hard to live in a car without access to sanitation or cooking facilities, and it will only get harder as the temperature drops. Living in a car may be safer than sleeping on the street, but it isn’t easy to stay healthy and safe. If people can’t get into housing with the help of their local homeless service system, they should at least try to stay warm. Many communities have food programs where people can get a meal, and some communities have places where people can shower. Find out what is available, and use it.

    We refer families immediately to a safe parking site if one exists and to the agencies dealing with families since it is one of the leading emergency situations we find where we want them to move into a safer form of housing. Often this can include temporary motel vouchers or space in the family shelters. Short of these options, seeking a congregational parking lot can be safer than other right-of-way parking, especially where there may be some support for the family and use of the indoor facility.

    For those experiencing vehicular residency, I suggest they contact a local service provider directly or through their local governmental entity that provides services to homeless populations. In the absence of those services being available, they should contact religious institutions that provide shelter and food.

    (Knowing) where to park is one of the number one ways to stay safe. Make sure the location is well lit, and pay attention to all street signs to avoid possible tickets or towing. Another critical item is not to fall asleep with the car running to avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. As we look at safety, we also know homelessness has continued to increase for individuals over aged 65. Any individuals or families with health concerns should find locations near a local hospital or medical facility to ensure that care is quickly accessible in a health emergency.


Dr. Graham Pruss
Dr. Graham PrussPostdoctoral Scholar at the University of San Francisco's Benioff Homelessness & Housing Initiative with the Center for Vulnerable Populations
Marybeth Shinn
Marybeth ShinnProfessor at Vanderbilt University
Bill Kirlin-Hackett
Bill Kirlin-HackettDirector at Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, The Rev. (M.Div.)
Antoine Lovell
Antoine LovellSubject Matter Expert on Homelessness, Housing and Community Development
Jennifer Hark Dietz
Jennifer Hark DietzExecutive Director at PATH

Where Can People Who Are Living With Homelessness Get Support?

An illustration of a young person putting a bag of groceries in the car's trunk.

There are many resources available to help individuals facing vehicular residency. It's essential to seek out local resources and organizations to learn everything you can about your options. The following resources can provide support right now.

  • Food Pantries: This site provides a list of more than 12,000 emergency food plans across the United States.
  • United States Department of Housing and Urban Development: HUD provides a variety of resources, including vouchers for finding low-income housing, rental information, subsidized housing and additional housing assistance.
  • Homeless Shelter Directory: This list offers information on homeless shelters located across the U.S.
  • Free Clinics: Visitors to this site will find a list of free medical care clinics in the U.S.
  • Job Corps: Job Corps provides educational and vocational training for youth and adults. It’s also a great source for beginning a career search.
  • PATH: This organization helps people find permanent housing and provides case management, medical and mental healthcare, benefits advocacy, employment training and other services in more than 140 cities in six regions.

How to Find the Right Assistance Program

Everyone's situation is different, and families and individuals may require different levels of assistance. Some people end up living out of their car because of income, others because of domestic violence or substance abuse. It can be challenging to know where to start for your particular situation.

The following are tips for finding the right assistance program for you.

1

Find local social services

If you’re unsure where to start, 211.org is a good place. This site provides 24/7 support to find local social services in your area. The organization offers assistance in finding services for the following needs:

  • Food and nutrition programs
  • Shelter and housing options
  • Disaster relief
  • Veterans services
  • Health care, vaccination and health epidemic information
  • Addiction and rehab programs
  • Reentry services for ex-offenders
  • Support groups for mental illness and special needs
  • A safe, confidential path for those facing physical or emotional abuse
2

Go to your local church

Not only do many churches offer food and even shelter, but they can assist you in finding other resources in your area to help you get back on your feet.

3

Utilize your free resources

Public libraries are a great place to get free access to the internet. Once online, you can research assistance programs in your area that fit your particular needs.

4

Access assistance programs

For funding needs, it's always best to start at Benefits.gov. On this website, you'll find access to government assistance programs to fit any situation.

5

Seek out local homeless shelters for additional assistance

If you are experiencing domestic violence or dealing with raising young children and living in a vehicle, the local homeless shelter is a great place to start. They can provide the necessary safety and connect you with additional assistance. If you're caring for a minor, they may be eligible to receive subsidized health coverage through Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Advocacy and Support Organizations

There are a variety of organizations across the U.S. that advocate for the homeless every day. Through providing resources and funding to working with local governments to get laws and regulations changed. Many organizations are advocating for individuals already experiencing or about to experience homelessness.

  • Volunteers of America: This organization works to prevent and end homelessness. They connect with people facing homelessness and provide financial support, service referrals, access to emergency and drop-in shelters and more.
  • National Coalition for the Homeless: This coalition assists those facing homelessness to stay in their home and provides emergency assistance for those without a home.
  • National Health Care for the Homeless Council: The NHCHC comprises volunteers, donors and board members who offer training, research and advocacy towards the movement to end homelessness.
  • Community Action Partnership: This nonprofit membership organization is dedicated to providing technical support, training and other vital resources to community action agencies, which are public, nonprofit groups funded by the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG).
  • National Homelessness Law Center: The Law Center is a nonprofit organization that advocates for homeless rights, including adequate housing, healthcare, food and education.
  • National Center for Homeless Education: This center is operated within the U.S. Government’s Department of Education for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program.

Getting an Address

Many of the steps an individual needs to take to transition back into a home require having a physical address. From applying for jobs to registering your vehicle, insuring your car, and obtaining a driver's license, an address is needed to complete all of these things. The following organizations can help those facing vehicular residency obtain a physical address.

  • USPS: You can apply for a P.O. Box from your local United States Postal Service office.
  • Coalition for the Homeless: The Coalition for the Homeless’s emergency mail program provides homeless New Yorkers with a mailing address for receiving important documents and information.
  • General Delivery Service through USPS: For individuals who don't qualify for a P.O. Box, you may qualify for general delivery through your local USPS office. General delivery is a service provided for those without a permanent address.

Safe Parking Programs

Many cities facing increased homelessness have implemented safe parking programs that allow people facing vehicular residency a safe and legal place to park their car overnight. California and the Pacific Northwest are paving the way in safe parking programs, with the following cities all offering safe parking programs.

There are additional cities that offer safe parking programs. Consider researching options in your area.

Housing Programs

Housing assistance exists in many forms. Depending on your situation, you may be able to find emergency shelter, drop-in centers, subsidized housing or even temporary housing and hotel and motel vouchers. The following organizations can help connect you with the proper services to find these options or directly provide housing assistance.

Road to Housing
  • Homefirst: Homefirst assists individuals and families in finding transitional and permanent housing.
  • HUD Family Unification Program: This program helps families at risk of being separated from their children because of a lack of adequate housing found a safe place to live.
  • HUD Title V: Allows organizations to use underutilized and surplus federal properties to provide housing to the homeless.
  • Rental Assistance Guide from HUD: This guide can help you find privately owned subsidized housing, public housing, voucher programs and more. It’ll also guide you through your legal rights.
Transitional Housing
Motel Vouchers
  • Salvation Army: The Salvation Army offers local motel vouchers for those facing homelessness.
  • Catholic Charities: The charity is known for providing shelter relief to those facing hardships. Catholic Charities does not offer shelter, but many locations will offer hotel and motel vouchers. You can search for your local Catholic Charities to contact them.
  • 211: While 211 does not directly provide motel vouchers, they do offer the ability to search for emergency vouchers in your area.

Crucial Needs Services

People living in their cars need access to the internet, computers, showers and other resources to stay safe and work towards moving into a home and keeping or finding a job. The following organizations provide crucial needs services to those experiencing homelessness.

Showers
  • Streetside Showers: Provides mobile hot showers and personal hygiene to those in need. On their website, you can search for streetside shower locations.
  • Public Shower Directory: Use this directory to find public and free showers available to the homeless.
  • YMCA: Similar to YMCA in Los Angeles, California, you can find multiple YMCA locations across the U.S. offering free showers. Do an online search to see if your local YMCA has showering options.
Access to Technology
  • Public Libraries: Public libraries offer free internet access and technology training. This site provides a list of public libraries across the U.S.
  • Homeless Encampments: Some homeless encampments have been granted free or inexpensive access to Wi-Fi.
  • Link-SF: A mobile-optimized website that connects users with providers of technology and other services.
Nutrition
Clothing, Blankets and Necessities
About the Author


Sara East is a freelance writer and content marketing professional based in Reno, NV. She specializes in content on insurance, mortgage, business and travel.

Sources