Greg*, an engineer, lives with his girlfriend out of his 18-year-old windshield-less Audi in the Walmart parking lot. After nine years working for the military, Greg knows how to fix anything with wires. At Tesla, he troubleshoots batteries and new cars going on the market. To stay clean, he uses the family restrooms at Walmart. “The employees have been very nice and don’t even say anything to me when I go and use the bathroom for a sink shower or brush my teeth a few times a day,” said Greg.
Champion Laundry in downtown Reno, Nevada, is a hot spot for Tesla employees living in their cars. The laundromat offers a free dry cycle and a few shadowed parking spots to pull into and sleep at night.
Siren* (her street name) finds comfort with her pillow-pet named “Shnergy” while her boyfriend, Caveman* (also his street name), is working long shifts at Tesla, saving money for their dream of living off the land in Oregon. The couple both fight bouts of addiction in addition to fighting each other. “At some point the abuse just feels like home,” she said as she hugged Shnergy underneath their dented Toyota Corolla, the windshield broken by Caveman’s throwing knives.
“I call her ugly,” B*. says as he motions to his 1980s home on wheels, which he got from a “God-fearing-man” last December. B. is a street guitarist who recently left his job as a plumber at the Tesla factory. He says “Ugly” is the best thing that ever happened to him because it allowed him to keep pursuing music in Reno.
After B. left Tesla, he began working on a gospel album.
B. used his experience at the Tesla factory to learn about batteries and is now helping people experiencing homelessness fix battery-powered items, including cell phones and stereos. He even uses batteries to power guitar amps for himself and other street musicians.
This young woman lives with her father, Dave Ramsey, in a camper in the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony church parking lot. Ramsey works as the night security guard for the church. After working for Tesla as a driver, he decided to go back to a job that didn’t move him around so much, so he could spend more time with his daughter.
Marty* and his dog Jax have been living in Reno for 14 years, but began living out of Marty’s car this May. At Tesla, Marty checks batteries on a line, but he explains that his job could change any day. “It just depends on how my superiors feel, one day I’m doing batteries, the next I’m driving the forklift, so who knows.”
For two years Tasha* and her partner, Kent*, and their two pit bulls have called their Dodge SUV home. They worked for a short time as construction workers at Tesla’s Gigafactory. But the safety goggles that the job required Kent to wear didn't fit over his large glasses, so he left. Tasha shortly followed. After he quit, they got in a fight and Kent sprayed Tasha with bear mace. In the week and a half since, she hasn't showered.
There’s an unspoken rule at Walmart that parking lot residents are allowed to stay for 14 days. But if Gigafactory employees respect the space, they’re usually not bothered. Many don’t even risk drinking a beer.