RV squatters ‘camp’, beg at Walmart

By Chuck Woodbury

The following appeared as a comment on one of our articles from a reader named James. I wanted to add my own thoughts. He wrote:

“I am currently in Amarillo, Texas and the Walmart parking lot has ‘squatters’ all over the parking lot making it look less than an ideal place to do business. They all have signs begging for handouts so it is uncomfortable to even shop there.”

What James has observed is not just at this Texas Walmart. It’s happening across the country. My question, as it has been for several years, is: How long will Walmart tolerate this?

A year? Two? Maybe three? As the number of almost homeless people who live in old, often barely operable RVs continues to grow, and the word gets out that Walmart will let them squat in their store parking lots for free, the problem will worsen. I, for one, do not think Walmart will put up with it for much longer. I don’t think a day or two passes that a Walmart store somewhere in North America does not post a “No overnight stays” sign.

So where will those countless thousands of RVers stay who rely on Walmart on any given night as a sleepover point between one destination and another? Good question, and one I think about often. I am making progress with my proposal of a chain of no-frills, bargain-priced RV stopover “parks” with electric hookups only, with stays limited to one night only. I will have much more to say about this in the weeks ahead.


39 Thoughts to “RV squatters ‘camp’, beg at Walmart”

  1. Jerry Jordan


    Would it be possible to post comments oldest first (at the top) to newest at the end. With responses coming before the original comment, it can be hard to follow the discussion.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Jerry, we are introducing a reader forum within the next couple of weeks. That will be THE place to comment, and it will be much easier to follow a thread.

  2. frater secessus

    BBT’s behavior in the comment section is remarkably similar to the bad behavior he describes in Walmart parking lots.

    Time to start banning comments by IP.

  3. Jim O'Briant

    As the CEO & Administrator at http://www.OvernightRVParking.com, I receive 100-300 reports each week from our subscribers, updating us on which places still allow Overnight RV Parking and which places have now banned it. Over the past year, there have been at least 3 – 4 update reports per week about Walmarts all over the country that have changed their policy to “No Overnight RV Parking.”

  4. Lee

    Well Chuck, this is not a new problem. 30+ years ago the U.S government began limiting campground stays to 14 days in one campground due to the squatters and the attendant trash, sewage and crime issues. This policy put many of these folks on a circuit of local area campgrounds, staying 14 days at a time each. This has led to many National Forests to limit campground stays to 14 days per season in the whole forest. Fast froward to today where we face the aftermath of recession, housing market collapse, rising rents, gentrification and an ageing population to name just a few factors, and the homeless/house less population has soared. As these folks are pushed out of one place, they relocate in another as water seeks it’s own level. the causes are many, and complex and require equally varied solutions . Finger pointing, name calling and nay saying contribute nothing to the conversation or the solution we just have to want to and start to work.

    1. Phil McCraken

      US Dept. of Labor just reported that there are more jobs than people, and growing. I suggest to tell these bums to get a job. Albeit, some will say, the poor little bums, you don’t know the whole story. I say, start working while I start to listen. They have enough energy to navigate countless systems to remain a bum.

      Get a job, there eveywhere.

  5. Please B. Civil

    Ha! Whooops! Speaking of editing… I apparently deleted the ‘NOT’ want… in my comment while I was editing my own comment.

  6. Please B. Civil

    You have stated that you do want reader comments that are mean spirited and/or political rants, which I hope includes even thinly veiled racism… but yet, in my opinion, RVTravel still publishes them in comments sections. For example, do Billy Bob Thorton’s views in this column really meet your requirements? If not, do you or your staff edit reader comments “before” publishing them? Decring them and asking for them to stop AFTER publishing them dilutes your credibility and encourages more.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Re: Please be Civil: It’s sometimes hard to choose whether or not to delete a comment. If they get slightly out of line we often let them stay. But when the person who posts a comment starts ranting or blaming liberals or Trump supporters or others on the problems, we almost always delete those, although some do slip by. The comments you don’t see are the ones we deleted. We’re not perfect, but we try to keep the name callers and know-it-alls away, among others.

    2. Phil McCraken

      Life teaches us many things. For one not to recognize that there are people with serious upside down views, on such things as abolishing ICE for example. Which by the way, will greatly impact the safety of campers near the southern border. Some, I would suspect, just argue to play opossum.

      That my friends is never a good thing. For those of us who remember the 60ties, protesting the war, turned out to be a good thing. But, it was our own young men being slaughtered for a pointless war, fought for the wrong reasons. This is different. This is for the sovereign status of the United States of America. I sir, will not lay down and allow other, so called globalists, to inject their nonsense into the well being of a nation.

      Yes, this is RV related, because if we lose the southern border, what’s next.

  7. brenda

    Personally, I would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for an overnight (and safe) boondocking site. Even a $5 or $10 fee would be better than a $50 site for a few hours sleep, and may be enough to discourage the riff-raff.
    The problem with any of these “proposed “solutions is still — enforcement!

    1. Bob Farabaugh

      Just a safe place to park and sleep. maybe existing parks could consider a low cost area to do just that. We stop at Roanoke Rapids Va. at a park which as a row for 25$ fo late arrival early departure. It even has hookups. I’ve never done the Walmart thing but I like having that option if I get stuck somewhere.
      Carolina Crossroads

  8. Don

    You wonder why lots of campgrounds are closing down. Lots of times Wal-Mart will have 20 overnighters ( some buying in the store – most not) and the campground down the road is sitting empty. That campground has to pay lots of taxes and utilities all year round. Unless you own a business such as a campground you do not know the cost to run it. Perhaps Chuck should check into how much it costs to make a SIMPLE campground. Land price, infrastructure, water, electric, sewer sani-dump, maintenance, workers, signage, advertising, taxes, etc . for bargain price of $ for one night only. What is a bargain price =$10.00 . And then the person staying also wants to leave their garbage, dump their sewer, wash their rig, use free internet, have a place for their pets to do their own dump ( and not clean up after them) and how about a club house , pool , outside games and laundry mat, also big enough for any size rig and must be all pull-thrus also. I like the idea of doing a long travel and having a place to stay for a quick overnighter and get back on the road early such as going to Wal-Mart but you should think of the little campground that may not be there next time you go thru the area and the Wal-Mart has posted no overnighters allowed now.
    Then what will you do?

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      It costs about $10,000 to $25,000 per site to build a full-service RV park from scratch, plus the cost of the property. Your comment is all over the place and doesn’t really make sense to me. You cannot sum up the Walmart vs. RV parks subject so simply. But the system is no longer working properly as many, many RV parks get booked up and Walmarts and other unofficial free locations put up “No overnight parking” signs.

    2. Bill T.

      Don, I think you may be missing the point. Travelers who stay in Wal-Mart and other such places, just want to stop, sleep, then move on. Amenities are not on the list of requirements. Perhaps if campground owners offered an overnight spot to stop for a few bucks, for those who just want to sleep and move on the next day, then they could make a little money rather than make none at all.

    3. Rob

      Like many problems in our world it boils down to money, or for some folks lack of money. The economic system really doesn’t work. Greed brought on the recession of 2008 and the aftermath is lots of displaced people without another option but the cheapest one. I really don’t know what the fix is to the lack of clean, safe places for people to live is but it’s sad and shouldn’t exist in a country like the USA or Canada.

    4. Phil McCraken

      Your argument has become flawed, and here is why.

      Based on the sheer number of units being produced, and the countless articles Chuck, and contributors talk about the difficulty of just “winging it” are coming to a close. During the busy seasons (i.e. summer, snow bird) you just can’t find a spot most times, so what you believe to be true, isn’t.

  9. Cat Hill Plummer

    This doesn’t just hurt campers, work campers on their way to a new position. It also hurts truckers, and transporters. The vagrancy situation is out of control. Our leaders of our states have done this by asking judges to stop enforcing the laws of our states. Manufacture, dealing, and being under the influence of drugs is still against the law, as well as vagrancy. Those of us that are decent law abiding campers must write our state leaders and demand the laws be enforced. I do feel for the 10% of the people that have truly come upon hard times. They are the people that need our help. The idea of an overnight electric only park is interesting, great idea.

  10. Ted Denman

    What can responsible RV’rs help Walmart get rid of their “getto” RV squatters?

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Billy Bob. Please no more rants about lefties. And to others, no rants about righties. At this website we will not let ranters rant. Billy Bob, no more blaming others unless you have some solid evidence. And no ranting about the Mainstream Media. For 30 years I have considered myself one of “them.” There are bad apples, yes, but most of us try our best to be honest. What is going on with the media these days takes a lot of studying to understand. It’s really complicated, and for those of us who do care about freedom of the press, it’s a scary time.

      1. Billy Bob Thorton

        Will do Chuck. I will try and make the posts RV related.

    2. squeakytiki

      Trolls gonna troll…
      Take your lunacy to reddit where it belongs.

      1. Billy Bob Thorton

        Sir, please don’t be unkind. Thanking you in advance for your attention to this matter.

        See above.

  11. Carl

    We have friends with a townhouse near the light industrial area of Ballard/Fremont in Seattle. This area is rapidly gentrifying, but in the meantime there are dozens of old beater RVs parking overnight in this area. I agree with the comment by Tumbleweed above that virtually all of the RVers you see coming out of these units are “old white guys” who could very well be Vietnam vets, but clearly not illegals, who tend to be hispanic.

    1. Mary L Hazel

      I’m assuming you’re joking, fell flat.

    2. Sam North

      There must be a better place for you to display your ignorance. Or maybe you could just post on RV-related topics, and leave the politics out.

      1. Chuck Woodbury

        Sam, I agree. I just wrote him a message to quit the ranting.

    3. Billy Bob Thorton

      Sir, please don’t be unkind. Thanking you in advance for your attention to this matter.

      See above.

  12. Tumbleweed

    I commented on this earlier, but I have another angle on this issue. As a full-time boondocker, I have seen many more vagrants and beat-up RVs than RVers who only occasionally park at Walmart and are appalled by their “campmates.” What I have learned over the years is that a huge number of the beaters are driven by Vietnam vets. For whatever reasons, these vets are vagrants and have little money. To me, this is even more appalling than their camping at Walmart. I am totally anti-war, but if we send our men out to be cannon fodder, we most certainly owe it to them to take care of those who get wounded physically, mentally, and emotionally when they return home. PTSD is a plague for Vietnman vets, in particular. I suspect that if they had been properly cared for upon return, the number of Walmart vagrants would be significantly reduced.

  13. Lydia

    I think the days of RVers parking overnight at Walmart are coming to a close. The RV vagrants/druggies in barely functioning motorhomes squatting in Walmart lots and elsewhere have ruined it for non-vagrants-non druggies. In the Seattle area drugged out vagrants in decrepit RVs line the streets of some pretty nice Seattle neighborhoods. The vagrants have also been responsible for some pretty ugly crimes against innocent citizens and costing cities they inhabit millions of dollars for clean-up. Whether they live in decrepit RVs or tents on the sidewalks it’s all bad news for us “normal folks.”

    I think overnight camping is no longer allowed at ANY of the WalMarts along the I-5 corridor in Washington State because of the drugged out vagrants who also use their rigs for cooking meth and other illegal drugs. I’m pretty sure Walmart management is aware of that criminal activity and they for sure don’t want THAT going on in their parking lots!

    Vagrants squatting on city streets and elsewhere are not “homeless.” They live that way by choice, enabled by city officials who do not enforce existing laws. Let’s not romanticize them by calling them “homeless.”

  14. marty chambers

    WalMart stores need to handle this issue with the local law enforcement agency. They can set up a one night only policy with permission from the store’s management. Anyone who abuses that will be asked to leave. Anyone who becomes a jerk can be “trespassed” by the police and banned from ever using Walmart as a resting stop.

    1. Tumbleweed

      I’d bet that most RVers of the non-vagrant variety who park overnight in Walmart lots do a considerable amount of shopping while there in exchange for the free spot. So it’s actually a good business tactic to let RVers park for a night. Walmart could rid themselves of the nuisance vagrants by asking RVers to go inside and get a one-night permit, and then have the police ticket those with an expired permit. Walmart could make it even easier, and earn a bit of money, by having a machine that prints a permit for $1.00. Most RVers would be willing to pay this tiny fee, and vagrants might not.

      1. Ted Denman

        Great idea! Tag that $1.00 overnight fee on to my SHOPPING receipt! Done!

      2. Tina GAllagher

        That’s a great idea! Adding the fee would also add to the city’s coffers. I’d gladly pay for a permit to stay the night in a parking lot when I know security will pass by. Pass this idea on to Wal Mart’s corporate HQ. It might be adopted.

      3. Gary

        This is a heck of an idea. Make it $5.00. Not unreasonable, but it would help Walmart defray some of the costs of overnight security

    2. Bill T.

      Hi Marty, you a right. Most WalMarts have surveillance in their parking lots. It’s not rocket science to see who comes in one day and leaves the next. WalMart would be doing themselves a business injustice if they banned overnight parking. 80% of the legitimate RV’ers stopping for the night buy a coffee in the morning and resupply before they leave. Local city bylaws are in place for vagrancy and trespassing. WalMart security calls the cops on the vagrants and squatters and they are moved, towed and impounded at the cities expense. It’s the cities that have created the bylaws, let them handle the problem and leave the legitimate travelers alone.

  15. OnWeGo

    It’s a problem, certainly, even up here in Northeast Ohio, which normally thinks of itself as removed from these sorts of social annoyances. After all, we’re a long way from the Mexican border, the climate is somewhat unlike Hawaii or Southern California, and anybody who wants a job around here can find one in a few days. (Yes, they’re mostly minimum wage positions, but isn’t that how 90% of us got our start?)

    Squatting is tolerated because senior management believes that the news and social media blowback from prohibiting overnight stays by “those less fortunate than us” would damage the company’s brand. (Never mind that I have to be aggressive as some of these folks to keep them away from my family. But then, my demographic tends not to attract sympathy when it’s bothered.)

    Let that kind of thinking sink in for a minute.

    Must run along along now. Time to, finally, pay my fair share to keep this thing going. If those 300 folks can do it, fixed income and all, in some cases, I’m sure, well, so can I.

    1. Lydia Bishop

      So Walmart management is part of the problem? Kinda like Seattle city government NOT enforcing existing laws.

      By NOT kicking out squatters, Walmart in your area is only ENABLING the vagrants!

      It’s gonna bite them in the butt!

  16. Kevin Hogle

    I’m a believer here at the Hurricane UT Walmart, that squatters were at least partially responsible for the “no overnight parking” signs. And of course others who abused the privilege that weren’t needy in any way.

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