Why Do the Homeless Sleep During the Day?

homeless sleeping outside during the day

At least once in your life, you’ve probably seen homeless people sleeping in a park or on the sidewalk outside and wondered why they choose to sleep all day instead of at night. Maybe you’ve noticed them earlier in the day, then hours later you passed by the same spot where you saw them and noticed they’re still there.

Maybe you’re even a homeless person yourself and wondering why it might be better to sleep during daytime hours than at night. Well during my time living on the streets, I was not exactly a nocturnal homeless person like many others I knew. But still, I understood their reasons for sleeping during the day because there were a few times when I had to do the same.

So if you’re not homeless yourself, you shouldn’t blame homeless people for sleeping all day. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re lazy or don’t want to work during the day. Sometimes it’s purely out of necessity. They just might have legitimate reasons for doing so. The following five explanations might just help shed some light on their reasoning and why so many do sleep in public during the day.


Public Parks Close

It’s very common to see homeless people sleeping in local parks during daytime hours. The main reason for this is because public parks are normally closed at night and anybody caught in parks at night might be arrested for trespassing.

So for this reason, those who have nowhere else to sleep at night will often walk the streets or ride public buses all night until it’s daylight again. Then they’ll find the nearest park so they can get some shut eye when it’s actually legal to do so. In most cities and counties in the United States, it’s still legal to sleep in a park during the day.

These laws may vary in other countries or provinces, depending on where you’re from. But if you see many people sleeping in a park during the day, it might not necessarily mean that they’re lazy. It might just be that they’re desperate for sleep because they can’t get any at night and have nowhere else to go.I had many days where I would sleep in a nearby park for a few hours because I didn’t get any sleep during the night for various reasons. My plan each day was to work online and use the internet to get back on my feet, but I had a laptop and needed the library’s Wi-Fi to do this most of the time.

Because the local park opened many hours before the library on certain days, I’d rest up in the park beforehand so I could give my full attention to my work online at the library later.


Less Chance of Attack

Make no mistake about it, sleeping on the streets at night is extremely dangerous. After I had become homeless, I was hearing stories about a man that was going around the city attacking homeless people by lighting them on fire in their sleep.

This was particularly horrifying to hear because I knew I was exposed at night without a tent or any type of cover. My first three months on the streets was just me, my backpack, a mat, and a sleeping bag. I didn’t even have the sleeping bag and the mat until my second week.

So there were many nights that I simply didn’t sleep and would just be too alert to sleep. I would walk around, not only because of the cold temperatures, but because I was too paranoid of being attacked in my sleep.

So if you see a homeless man or woman sleeping during the day, on a public bench, or in a park, or on the street, it might just be because they’re too scared to sleep at night.

Many people think homeless people don’t care about themselves simply because they’re on the streets. The truth is, most obviously do not want to be in this situation and have fears and feelings and want to stay alive just like anybody else would.


Less Resources Used

When you have little money, you don’t want to waste resources like money and energy. Walking around means burning energy, which means becoming hungrier faster. This also equals sweating a lot, which leads to drinking more fluids.

They may be waiting on a check or something else to happen and just want to stay put and relax until then. You’d be surprised how many homeless people out there have court settlements brewing or other big paydays they’re waiting on. I met many people who were going through court battles with others or who were waiting on disability or injury settlement checks.

A lot of times, people who are expecting a lot of money are either affected by the injuries that bring on these big paychecks or simply become lazy as a result of knowing they’ll financially be taken care of very soon.

One of the homeless people that I befriended and who I spent the most time with was currently going through a nasty court process with his ex-employer. He was a juvenile probation officer who had to spent some nights in detention centers where he worked because they needed someone to stay overnight in case any problems occurred within the centers. He stated he wasn’t paid for these hours and should have, so he had sued his ex-employer in court for back wages.

Another man I knew had supposedly suffered a back injury while on the job and stated that’s how he become homeless. He said he could no longer work due to the injury, but disability payments were taking too long and he was also taking his employer to court but this was also taking time.

So a lot of times, these types of homeless people will simply have a plan to use as little resources as possible and to stay put in public parks or wherever they need to each day until they expect things to work themselves out.


Graveyard Shift

There’s many people that actually work at night or in the very early morning hours. Keep in mind that homeless people often look for jobs in online job posting boards when they’re on their local library computers. These are sometimes jobs that regular people with families and homes can’t work due to the low pay and the unconventional hours they’ll need to work.

I knew many other homeless people in my encampment who worked various jobs and gigs throughout the night or in the AM hours. One example was a man who was working as a security guard at night. He had a “guard card” which is basically credentials in California that allow you to work as a security guard in many positions.

He worked for a security contracting agency who would send him to different businesses every week, depending on where he was needed. He would guard and patrol these businesses and kept his uniform in his backpack with him so he could change into that or his regular clothes when on or off duty. He would then return to our encampment only on the nights when he was off and would tell others about his job. During the day, he most likely slept in a park or somewhere else outside as I knew he didn’t have a home.

There was also a local newspaper delivery company that would pull up to our encampment in a van and offer homeless people daily pay to walk through neighborhoods and distribute newspapers door to door. Basically, they needed paper boys and paid very low wages, but it was all cash and they always found enough workers to do the job by visiting the homeless camps and shelters.

They’d drive everybody to the neighborhoods they’d be working in, and would give them a route with newspapers and let them deliver the newspapers to driveways and mailboxes as early as 4am or 5am. Many of these guys would stay up all night so they’d be awake when the van showed up, and would then sleep during the day when they returned to the area.

Also, I knew a few homeless people who told me they would collect cans at 3am or 4am because they wanted to get to the cans before the local garbage men came to pick them up. They’d go through neighborhoods and check trash cans for aluminum cans and bottles, and would do this until about 5am.

Then they’d exchange these cans and bottles for money at the local redemption centers and would sleep the rest of the day. They only did this about once a week, but when you see a homeless person sleeping when the sun is up, this just might be that particular day for them.


Too Cold at Night

Often times, people will sleep during the day when homeless because it’s too cold at night to do so. I learned the cold, hard reality of this when I tried homelessness at night for the first time.

The first night that I tried sleeping outside while homeless, I knew nothing about survival on the streets. I thought that I’d be fine sleeping in just a winter jacket as long as I zipped it up and kept it on. I was in San Jose, California so I didn’t think the weather would get that cold out to where I couldn’t handle it.

When it became cold that night and I tried sleeping on the concrete under a bench, I woke up an hour later and felt like I was freezing to death. But it wasn’t even snowing and it was fall, not winter.

What I realized was that your body literally absorbs cold temperatures from surfaces like concrete where there is no insulation between you and the concrete. A blanket, a jacket, and even a sleeping bag made for cold weather are still not sufficient enough to insulate from cold concrete.

It dawned on me that I needed a thermal mat or something made of foam. This is why you see so many homeless people making use of cardboard and brown boxes and sleeping on those types of materials.

They act as a form of insulation so their bodies don’t absorb all that cold from the street. So I ended up staying up all night, simply because I had nowhere warm to lay my body down on. Someone offered me a ride to the downtown area of my city and I just walked around all night and kept active so I wouldn’t get too cold.

When the next day came and the temperatures warmed up again, then I became very sleepy and just wanted to rest somewhere for half the day. I just wanted to have the energy and enough clear thoughts to figure out how I was going to get out of this mess I found myself in.