San Diego

Car Dwellers Turn to Rest Stops As Regulations Push Them Off City Streets

With the high cost of housing in San Diego county and cities cracking down on sleeping in vehicles on city streets, homeless people are finding creative places to live.

Rest stops off the freeway apparently aren’t just for quick bathroom breaks and naps. Some people are using the lots as a place to park the cars they live in overnight.

Scott Monroe has a good sense of humor when it comes to his current living arrangement in his car. He likes to joke about the backseat being his master bedroom.

The 60-year-old former caregiver paints a bleak picture of ever finding affordable housing in San Diego County.

“It’s expensive,” Monroe said. “I’ve been a caregiver for 14 years, and it's a little above minimum wage, and it's not realistic for one person on your own."

But Monroe wasn't always on his own. His journey to living in his Chevy Malibu started when he lost his wife.

“She died in 2013 and two incomes turned into one," said Monroe.

Shortly after he had to downsize from their Escondido apartment to an $845 per month room in San Ysidro. Soon after, he could no longer afford that rent due to sporadic work and health issues.

All his belongings are now packed in his car, and he’s called the Aliso Creek rest stop near Oceanside home since October 2018.

Monroe has plenty of neighbors. As night falls, dozens of the more than 3,600 unsheltered homeless people in San Diego County, some with their pets, put their feet up at rest stops.

“It wasn’t a decision,” Monroe said. “It was a must.”

Signs are posted at the rest stops noting it's not legal for people to stay longer than eight hours a day.

CHP says people living at the rest stops in their cars is an ongoing situation. It’s on their radar, but they’re trying to be compassionate about it.

Violators of the eight-hour law can be ticketed.

Monroe says he abides by the rules and picked the rest stop to stay out of people’s way and off the streets where they live.

He says he’s planning to hit the road soon, hoping to move to another state where perhaps he can afford a home.

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