What It’s Really Like to Live in the Walmart Parking Lot

At the end of each busy day of customers bustling through the stores, Walmart takes on a completely separate purpose. It provides a place for the weary to lay their heads for the night: Its parking lots.

Thousands of people choose to spend the night in Walmart parking lots each year. Some are passing through town and realize they can save a buck by not booking a hotel. Others have a less of a choice and are there because they have nowhere else to go. Through it all, the hosting of overnight guests is fine by Walmart, in most locations. One writer referred to it as a kind of urban campground.

Sleeping in RVs, vans, trucks, compact cars

RV trailer in the badlands

People sleep in what they can. | Kent Weakley/iStock/Getty Images

A recent article in The New York Times called “Overnight in Walmart Parking Lots: Silence, Solace and Refuge” featured photographs taken in the summer of 2017 by photographers Mike Belleme and George Etheredge. The two slept in a cargo van for several nights in different Walmart parking lots in the South.

Featured in the article were people from all walks of life who found themselves spending the night in Walmart parking lots – either for convenience or out of desperation. They slept in RVs, vans, trucks, and even compact cars.

“You’re going to see a lot of folks out here running from something,” one man in Asheville, North Carolina told Belleme and Etheredge. “For the first time in my life, I’m not running from anything. I guess I was running from myself.”

Next: First, here’s what Walmart says about staying overnight in its parking lots.

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