Is staying overnight in an RV at Walmart in jeopardy?

By Bob Difley
RVers who frequently spend the night in Walmart parking lots while on road trips are in danger of losing the privilege, according to an article Wednesday in the Salem, Oregon, Statesman Journal, part of the USA Today network. What is happening at these stores may very well indicate a trend that could force more stores to post “no overnight parking” signs. The reason: Too many homeless people holing up in the parking lots.

Parker, Arizona Walmart packed with RVs.

The problem becomes, then, what will happen to the thousands of RVers who currently stay on any given night at Walmart?

“Homeless people can no longer stay overnight in RVs, vans and cars at Walmart parking lots in the Mid-Willamette Valley after stores threatened to tow vehicles lingering past business hours,” wrote Jonathon Bach in the Statesman article.

Traditionally, Walmart stores have been a friendly and safe overnight stop for RVers, who also spend freely in the stores for supplies and food. In fact, a Walmart store policy officially welcomes RVers, though individual store managers are given the option to follow that policy depending on their location and local ordinances.

But now, stores in the towns of Salem and Woodburn in Oregon’s Willamette Valley have posted signs stating, “No Overnight RV Parking” – indicating a change of policy. However, this policy change appears to have resulted because of a “homeless” problem, not from animosity toward RVers.


Never spent a night in a Walmart parking lot?
Here are the rules as outlined by RVtravel.com editor in a short video.


“Living in cars is usually ‘the first step into homelessness,’ and for the hundreds of people that do so in Salem, not having a place to park safely ‘makes things more desperate,'” said homeless advocate Jimmy Jones, director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency ARCHES project.

The changing policies of Oregon’s Walmarts trying to deal with the homeless problem, however, are part of a larger looming problem, the availability of overnight parking spaces for on-the-road RVers that are being lumped into the larger “homeless” category – a threat to fulltime as well as occasional RVers across the country.

As previously reported in RV Travel articles, manufacturers are pumping out more RVs than ever before, yet the number of new campgrounds and RV park sites are not matching the increase in RVs. Most RVers know the difficulty in securing a place to sleep overnight without a reservation – often necessary months in advance. In recent years, stopping at night at Walmart has been a solution. But is that privilege in jeopardy? 

To add to the crisis, housing prices and sky-high rents force many younger people, even those employed fulltime, into other means of living, which include cars, vans, station wagons and, yes, RVs.

Without enough additional campsites in the pipeline to meet demand, the struggle for sleeping places can only make the problem continually worse. And that could lead to Walmart changing their overnight policy not just in Oregon but nationally.

Read the entire article in the Statesman Journal.

 

 

 

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27 Thoughts to “Is staying overnight in an RV at Walmart in jeopardy?”

  1. Roy

    For those suggesting WM collect a fee … ‘most’ could not as they are not licensed for that kind of business and would be in violation of local business ordinances. Local CG’s would be filing complaints with cities and counties.

    WM’s are not local police. They don’t want to decide who should stay and who must go. We appreciate it ‘when we can’. If not, we move on. We have a WM close and they posted ‘no overnight’ recently. WM got inundated with freeloaders setting up long-term campsites with slides out, grills, lawn chairs, clothes lines and kids’ play areas. All the WM Super Centers in our Valley started closing at night. Talking to one manager, the nighttime shoplifting losses were not sustainable.

    There is no sticker for ‘good guy’ campers to receive special treatment. A sign of our times, unfortunately. Realistically, aren’t we ‘campers’ ? .. or are we Parking Lot Rangers / Warriors? There are tons of free/cheap lands. Stop at a BLM between cities for camping, drive through WM for shopping. It’s WalMART, not WalCAMP. They do not OWE US a place to camp.

  2. Juniper

    The store manager decides whether or not to allow overnight parking. My husband is a cop in Salem. The “homeless” people that stay in WM and other lots around town are not low wage workers. They are also not really homeless- they are transients who refuse housing when offered. There are also men who can’t get into apartments because they are sex offenders and felons. Salem police patrol the lot and find people with warrants. You can google what happened in 2015 in the WM parking lot.
    It was during the day and a police officer ran the plate on a bus that had been “camping” there. The guy had a felony warrant from out of state. His girlfriend and the dog came out but the guy decided he’d rather open fire on the police. WM had to lock down the store full of customers while SWAT team went up on the roof and bought in an armored vehicle. All the customers watched from inside the store as police shot and killed the guy and the bus caught on fire. Good times in heroin and meth infested Salem!

  3. Donald Fredericks

    Photos like the one you had included are often out of context. There are often big events which draw lots of RVers from far away places plan to arrive early but the event has no room for them until the gates are opened. The event has parking space as their lots are empty but do not allow them to park even for an extra day parking fee without hook ups. Which would take the heat off Walmart.

    Walmart is partly at fault as well. If Walmart would take a far end section and marked it out for 10 drive through space that would be their limit and control random parking problems. Cracker barrel has limited spaces and RVers respect that limited area. Some times employees park in the RV area so they can use the back doors to go to work. Respect needs to go both ways. Walmart needs to stop letting 18 wheelers park their at nights as they have lots of truck stops where they can let their motors run all night.

  4. Phil Atterbery

    Local officials usually have more to do with the “no overnite” rules than the store. If the local campground needs the protection of a city council then maybe the CG needs new management.

  5. frater secessus

    The most recent abuse I’ve seen at WM (shopping, not camping), was a Class A across ~8 spots in the middle of the parking lot, Slides out. Nice.

    They could have pulled through two spaces at the back of the lot and kept the slides in. At least the “bums” at WM only take one space.

  6. Ron Reagan

    We plan our travels so that we know exactly where we will be staying the next night. Stopping at Walmart (or any other large retail store’s parking lot) is out of the question. People spend thousands of $$ on their RV’s but are too cheap to pay 30 or 40 bucks to spend the night at a FHU and secure rv park. Never have understood this mentality. R

    1. Ron Tracewell

      Ron, not all of us travel as you do, apparently spending every night in an RV park. We enjoy the journey as much as the destination, so we often start the day asking ourselves “Where to today?”, or “Which route should we choose today?”, or “How many hours are we driving today?” or, “Where might we end up this afternoon?”
      Our travels are usually in the western US, ranging between Mexico (where we winter) and Canada, for a three to four month period. During this extended travel, we often spend the night at a WalMart, sometimes in other large retail parking lots. Regardless of whether the lot is posted ‘No RV’s’ or not, we ALWAYS first check with a manager for permission. Many will thank us for asking, and give us the go-ahead to stay the night (even when posted), and let their security personnel know we have permission. We usually stay in a FHU RV park every three or four days to dump and to enjoy their amenities.
      Ron, our “mentality” is that we save around $1,000 a month ($3,000 to $4,000 during our travel season) by utilizing WalMarts and similar lots for one-night stops. Yes, we have a beautiful coach, but being retired, we find it wise to save some travel funds in this manner.

    2. Billy Bob Thorton

      First off, love the name!. Second, its America, god bless you Mr, President to be able to live in a manner your accustomed too.

    3. frater secessus

      Not everyone spent a ton on an RV, and not everyone needs full hookups. And not everyone has $30-$40 to spend on a campsite each day.

    4. Julie Wines

      You also have to know exactly where you will be and check in by 5 pm. I’m a travel nurse and work nights. When going to my next destination I usually drive a good part of the night when traffic is lighter. Being able to pull over at 4am and sleep for a few hours in a parking lot helps me to get where I am going in a couple of days. It has nothing to do with the $30 or $40.

  7. George

    Has anyone considered writing WalMart and thanking them for allowing overnight RV parking and saying you appreciate the convenience and you do shop at those stores? I have. WalMart head office address is: 702 SW 8th St., Bentonville, AR 72716. Isn’t an overnight parking spot worth the price of a stamp? I think I’ll post this on the main newsletter page as well.

    1. frater secessus

      What is this “stamp” you speak of? 😛

      Seriously though, great idea. Will mail mine today.

  8. Campingshadow

    When we bought our last MH we were delayed leaving the dealership and were not able to get as far as we planned that night. We decided to stay at a Walmart. We were so proud of our new RV that had SLIDES and LEVELERS which we had never had before. We had also never stayed in a Walmart lot. We dropped our levelers, opened the RV heaven. Just as we were getting good and cozy….someone was knocking on our door. Come to find out that if a Walmart does not own the lot but is part of a retail complex then you cannot stay in their lot. So at about 11 PM we were back on the road looking for a place to stay. Naturally since then we have learned about Walmart RV parking etiquette and have only had reason to stay in one Walmart lot since. But I sure hope they do not shut them down because in a pinch they can be a real lifesaver when you are just too tired to go on and there are no campgrounds anywhere in the vicinity.

  9. Lizzy

    We stayed at a Walmart parking overnight in Northern California. The lot was pretty much full with decrepit RVs and cars. There were 3 other RVs that looked like travelers. In the morning, there was trash all over the parking lot and the only people who looked like they were moving were the travelers. I can understand why Walmart is saying, “No more!.”

    1. Billy Bob Thorton

      Welcome to the “new California “, Ma’am, you havent seen anything yet. That state is totally off the deep end. Google bums in Oakland, thats great entertainment.

  10. JM

    Since most of us use Wal Marts to shop, gas and overnight when traveling and we are unable to make our next destination stop, I would be more than willing to pay a reasonable fee to WM to get a night pass and stay in their parking lots while following their courtesy rules.

  11. rvgrandma

    Parking at the Walmart in Woodburn was banned years ago. The RV park across the freeway was complaining and got the city to pass an ordinance to make it illegal to park overnight there. When we were in NH in 2006 we were told it was city law that made it illegal to park at Walmart.

    Friends were traveling in the SE when they found a Walmart that escorted you to a section for overnighters making sure people left the next day. They definitely can afford it and think that is a good idea. When we traveled and wanted to stay in a parking lot we always asked. There were Walmart, Home Depot, grocery stores, etc. that we stayed at. Of course, it was overnight not over weekend!

  12. Eric Eltinge

    25% of the nation’s homeless live in CA. Add in the “Breakin’ Bad” people of opioids, etc., our state is a mess. Over 50,000 marijuana farms. They’ve made Northern California into an environmental Superfund. And so many live in wreck RVs. Embrace diversity!

  13. Mike

    I figure it’s only a matter of time before we can no longer overnight at WalMarts as they will just get overwhelmed with the number of RVrs.

    I kept my current RV as unobtrusive as possible..no swirls or bright paint. I figure I will have to do more stealth camping over time as RV parks fill up and WalMart ends overnighting.

  14. Bob Godfrey

    I have seen so many RVs in some Florida Walmarts in winter that I would expect Walmart to begin to ban them. These are the RVers who ruin a good thing for others since they “camp” in the parking lot for several days with slides extended and awnings out and BBQ grills and lawn chairs set up for living awhile. Shame on those who do so but I’m sure they don’t read this newsletter either.

  15. Billy Bob Thorton

    Typical. Instead of dealing with the bums, they set policy to ruin it for RVers. I do not blame Walmart one bit. The bums should park in the driveways of the politicians who set policy to allow the increase in the bum population.

    1. PeteD

      Unfortunately, many of these “bums” are working minimum wages jobs in retail. Some may even be working in the Walmart they are sleeping at. This problem is only going to get worse as AI and robotics take more jobs. We will have to find a way to deal with all these “bums”. Maybe another World War would take care of the problem.

      1. 11-99

        Leave your politics at home, we get enough of this propaganda from the MSM.

        1. Onwego

          Well, in fairness, I think Billy Bob, whom I agree with, started it.

          The folks the article refers to are the same people who live in wealthy neighborhoods and fail to pick up after their dogs. The divide in humanity isn’t between left and right, rich and poor, white and non-white, etc. It’s between the decent and the indecent. Same as it ever was.

        2. frater secessus

          It’s not like “propaganda from the MSM” is an apolitical stance, either.

      2. Bill

        Pete, be nice

    2. ChuckM

      Walmart should start charging and providing services. Customers in the parking lot are likely to both eat and stock up.

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