Slab City is an ex-military base that became squatter haven in Sonoran Desert of Southern California. Also known as “The Slabs,” it began as a campsite at the abandoned Camp Dunlap Marine barracks from World War II and got its moniker from the concrete slabs that remained at the site. Several thousand campers, many of them retired, use the site during the winter months. These "snowbirds" stay only for the winter, before migrating north in the spring to cooler climates.
Despite the disorienting summer heat, Slab City maintains a permanent population of around 150 residents. People migrate to Slab City for myriad reasons. Some of these "Slabbers" live off of government checks (SSI, Social Security, and Social Security Disability) and have been driven to the Slabs through poverty. Others have moved to The Slabs to learn how to live off the grid and to be left alone. While others have moved there to stretch their retirement income.
The site is both decommissioned and uncontrolled. Life here abides by a DIY ethos. There is no charge for parking. The nearest town for purchasing supplies is Niland, about four miles (6 km) away. The camp has no electricity, no running water, no sewers nor toilets, and no trash pickup service. Many campers use generators or solar panels to generate electricity. Amenities are sparse but the people are persistent and resilient. In Slab City, where temperatures can rise as high as 120 °F (48 °C), life and art are still smoldering on the unforgiving fringes of society.