If you received permission from the church, then yes, you can sleep in a church parking lot overnight. Church parking lots are owned by the church and are therefore private property. Thus, you should ask permission from the church before parking there overnight.
Can You Sleep in a Church Parking Lot Overnight?
Many churches allow RVers and car-dwellers to use their parking lots as “safe havens” for overnight sleep. For thousands of years, houses of worship have welcomed weary travelers for an overnight respite, and this tradition continues on today. But even for thousands of years, travelers have always sought permission first before laying themselves down to sleep.
- Call the church office ahead of time to make sure they will allow you to sleep in their parking lot overnight.
- Try to avoid Saturday nights due to heavy parking usage on Sunday morning.
- Do not put out patio chairs, tables, cooking grills, or pet fencing.
- Do not loiter outside, stay inside your vehicle.
Is it Legal to Sleep in a Church Parking Lot Overnight?
All large cities, and most medium-sized cities, have made it illegal to sleep in a vehicle overnight. It doesn’t matter if it’s on private property either. They also have laws against camping within city limits, with the exception of RV parks and campgrounds.
However, local law enforcement generally only enforce these laws at shopping centers and upscale neighborhoods. Places like churches, hospitals, and industrial parks tend to be left alone. However, just know that sleeping in a vehicle within city limits is normally illegal.
Shade Your Windows to Avoid the Police
The best way to prevent law enforcement from tapping on your vehicle window, is to put up shades. Make sure they completely block out all light from escaping outside. As long as police can’t see any light from inside your vehicle, nor can see anyone inside, they have no cause to believe that someone is sleeping or camping.
Will a Church Expect Me to Donate Money?
No, most churches do not expect you to donate money in exchange for sleeping overnight in their parking lot. They do this simply out of compassion and grace. They may tell you that you are welcome to attend a sermon or event, but they are only saying this to be kind. Otherwise, they would prefer that you just move along and not occupy their attention.
Safe Parking Programs
Many churches in medium to large sized cities participate in “safe parking programs”. Thus, if you were to call a church to inquire about parking, they may instead refer to the safe parking program administrator.
All large cities have a “safe parking program“. About half of the medium-sized cities have them too. These programs are usually set aside for city residents who live inside their vehicles. You must apply to the program to become eligible to park. When applying, the program officials will make sure you own a vehicle, that your vehicle is currently registered, and that you hold a current driver’s license.
Once you’ve been accepted, you can sleep overnight in your vehicle at any participating parking lot.
- To find out if your city has a safe parking program, you’ll have to do a Google search for “[city name] safe parking program“