In the last few weeks I've noticed one of my co-workers sleeping in their vehicle in our parking lot when I come in in the morning. It looks like the vehicle hasn't moved in a long time (not positive on this, they could move it in the evenings and come back to the same parking place). I know that they work two jobs (or at least did last time I spoke with them about it). They're not really a friend of mine, just a colleague who shares some of my outside interests and I'm a bit concerned for them since winter is approaching and it's getting cold at night (northern US).

I don't want to embarrass them, or report them to our company in any way, as it seems like it's not really the company's business, or mine for that matter. The parking lot where they're sleeping doesn't belong to the company, it belongs to a parking lot company but the vehicle has the proper permit, so that's not an issue, or at least I'm reasonably sure it's not, the parking company may have rules against long term parking, but since the permit is there and valid, it seems like it's OK.

I've had another co-worker go homeless quite some time ago, but we lived in Southern California at the time, so they were less likely to be affected by cold weather, and they weren't homeless for very long (I think about three months as I recall).

I'm not in a particularly good position to offer financial help as I've got a sibling who's not far from being homeless as well, and any financial help I can offer is going to go to them. However, I can offer more material things like blankets or sleeping bags to help fend off the chill during the night.

What is the best way to help my colleague in this situation?

Edit after reading comments & answers below:

At lunch just now I took the opportunity to take a look into their vehicle as I walked past it to mine. There's no evidence of a sleeping bag or blankets, nor is there an accumulation of seeds or leaves from the trees that are in close proximity and dropping both at a prodigious rate (my car had lots at the end of each day). This lends credence to the "taking a nap before work" theory postulated below. The temperature last night was close enough to freezing that there was frost. Without something to sleep in, it's unlikely that they're spending the night in the vehicle as I first supposed.

I think the thing to do is stop worrying about it, keep an eye on them for other signs of stress. There are none apparent when talking to them, but I'm hardly an expert, they seem their normal cheerful self.

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    If your colleague is employed, I think offering less tangible support like inviting him over for dinner and catching an episode of a show on TV or letting him pick up his mail at your place would be more helpful than blankets. It's a difficult subject to broach, but often what folks need most is an emotional break from the stress, not a warm coat.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 4 '15 at 18:54
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    If they are working multiple jobs and sleeping in the parking lot for convenience time may be less available than money. Nov 4 '15 at 19:07
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    My uncle got his medical degree living out of his van. Apparently he preferred it this way. I'd suggest leaving it alone unless the employee shows signs of bigger issues like starvation, etc. Nov 4 '15 at 19:21
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    Have you considered that there may be a few hours between his jobs where it makes more sense to just drive to the day job and nap for an hour or so before work rather than drive home, do what ever for 20 or 30 min then go to day job. Nov 4 '15 at 20:32
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    If the side job share a parking lot with your shared employer, is it possible your co-worker is simply taking a nap between jobs? When my children were infants, I frequently napped 10-15 minutes in my car upon arriving at work before walking into the office. And I parked in the same or nearly the space every day (due to when I arrived, it was always available).
    – alroc
    Nov 4 '15 at 20:33

I have not encountered this situation personally, but I would be careful about attempting to help without knowing any details. Could be this is a temporary situation. Or this is the most convenient way for now of dealing with 2 jobs.

As you mention, notifying the company is problematic because you don't know what the policy is, and you could end up making the situation worse for your colleague.

You say that this person is not a friend, but perhaps you can best help by trying to grow closer, and be a good listener for any requests or support that your colleague might really need right now.


As somebody who's been a working homeless individual off and on for many years, I can tell you that being a friend at work, who makes overt gestures at dinner, coffee, laundry, showers, in a concealed way, is the best method to approach somebody in this situation.

You have to build this trust before you will be asked for your help.

If you're willing to help your fellow man in society, it's a heck of a lot better than to give to a brand-name non-profit charity who's likely using your money to pay salaries and cover operational costs.

In my case, I've had life-long bad luck, mental health problems, social anxiety, and other symptoms that have held me back from the middle-class.

I can usually find work (office and otherwise) but then it's just a matter of not having enough to cover down payment on rent, hotel, or other home, before getting laid off.

Believe it or not, many in this situation would rather sleep in their car than ask family and friends for help. It's been a few months since this post so I'm hoping for any update. Good luck.


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