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Can You Sleep in a Church Parking Lot Overnight?

Can You Sleep in a Church Parking Lot Overnight?


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.

sleep overnight church parking lot
Parking lot of a small church in Joplin, MO

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

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6 thoughts on “Can You Sleep in a Church Parking Lot Overnight?”

  1. Thank you for this information.

    We recently became homeless (my two elderly small dogs and I) and am quite overwhelmed. The biggest issue is sleeping safely in our car….

  2. Addy and Sandi, Me too but I have my son with me. He’s a big guy. I’m 70 and have my two senior cats with me, one blind and deaf. So driving around and trying sleeping spots. Best so far have been church parking lots. I feel safe there. No one bothers us. Second is senior apt complexes but sometimes security will chase us away. Good luck ladies. God bless.

  3. I have found churches to be very hostile to vehicle-dwellers (mid Atlantic region). I called one church just asking if the area had a safe parking program, and she freaked out, said if I parked in THEIR lot, by God, they’d call the police and have them throw the book at me! She added they do NOT want homeless or poor folks in their church. I had better luck with Park & Ride commuter lots, Walmart, and some large shopping center lots with shaded, out-of-the-way corners where I wouldn’t get noticed

  4. All of you have cars. I,m in a wheelchair homeless & trust me called every shelter in pinellas & Hillsborough co. Been trespassed Walmart & 4 other places. Don’t want a pity party but low- income housing.. 2 yr. Waiting list. Thanks for listening.

  5. So many of us are in the same situation..there is something wrong with this picture! We have less rights as American citizens than others…its totally insane


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