STEALTH:- The Importance of Stealth When Car Living. Average suburbanites (and the police who serve them) are a pretty nervous and fearful bunch. They are easily scared by anything which is strange or different to them. Homelessness certainly falls into this category-- be it voluntary or involuntary. Therefore, it is very important to create a "stealth" vehicle for car living and to operate with stealth. What people do not know doesn't worry them.
The first step in this process is to choose a model that does not stand out (if you have the luxury of planning this ahead of time). I love VW vans as much as anyone... but to officials they scream "hippy" (and therefore, harassment). I chose a Toyota Van for my most recent hobovehicle ("The Mystery Machine"), but even it is a little too uncommon. I recommend a "soccer-Mom" mini-van, a plain work van, or any run of the mill sedan or compact. You should remove all bumper stickers and other distinguishing marks - keep it as non-descript as possible.
Once you have a vehicle, pull out all rear seats.... this will create your living space. Next, block out all rear windows with black tinting (or use black spraypaint on the insides of the window). I sealed some insulation board to the windows after tinting them... in order to block out light (and drafts).
The last step is to create a partition to hide the rear area from the driving area. I use a shower curtain rod that runs just behind the front seats. I hang a dark blue sheet from it (doubled) and can slide it open or closed quite easily. At night when I sleep, I slide the curtain closed. From outside, especially when its dark, you can't tell there's a curtain... it just looks like the rear area is in shadow.
In summer, I'll usually put a sunshade on the front windshield, to provide an extra bit of concealment.
With these modifications, I can park in populated areas and no one suspects that someone is living in the van (although choosing good parking areas is vital... a topic I'll cover at another time). In this sense, the suburban lack of imagination works to your advantage. It would never occur to most people that someone would choose to live in their car,.. therefore, with a bit of modification its quite easy to blend in.... even with a quasi-hippy van like mine.
-- Skald Hareksson
STEALTH NIGHT PARKING:- Overnight Parking While Car Living. A stealth car and a good parking space are the essential ingredients to pleasant car living. I have already covered the essentials of stealth vehicles.. and they are essentials. A completely hidden rear-living area and a non-descript car will take you far.
So where should you park at night? My first instinct was that a remote and/or concealed area would be best. During the Nissan Sentra experiment, I started by parking in an abandoned lot- concealed by trees. This worked for a few days and then the police found me. The Athens police have always been quite nice.... it was very obvious that I was living in my car (this was in my "pre-stealth days) but they didnt hassle me. They did tell me that I couldnt park on the lot. I was brash and asked them where I could park without them bothering me. They suggested any public parking space in the downtown area... especially if it didnt have a meter. I thanked them and found just such an area-- only 100 feet from the lot I had been in.
The best parking spaces are, in fact, in populated areas... where your car will be one of many. Ideally, this should be in a multi-use area... a place with several different types of establishments. For example, my favorite area (where I have NEVER been bothered) is near a nightclub, an apartment building, a convention center, and office buildings. As a result, cars come and go at all hours. I could conceivably be at any one of these places, so no one pays attention.
Other multi-use areas might include: a 24 hour grocery near apartments, a 24-hour gym near a motel, a late night restaurant with nearby offices, a bar with condos nearby, etc... But these aren't always easy to find,... especially in the suburbs.
In the burbs, I usually park in large apartment complexes. I choose a spot that is caddy-corner to busy entrances or balconies.. I don't want to be in line with front windows. I arrive and leave at off-peak times and once I arrive I NEVER leave the vehicle. I quickly crawl into the back, and pull the partition that runs behind the front seats (a dark sheet on a shower rod works well for this).
Also, I rotate between 5-6 parking spots ... going to a different one each night. When its time to go, I quickly crawl into the front seat, start the car, and leave.
Busy motels, truck stops, state parks, campgrounds, and the like are decent for one-night, occaisonal stops... but not great for extended periods of time. Multi-use areas with late night activity are best.
Of course, a good place is the driveway of a sympathetic friend. I had this option last summer and it was perfect.
A note about very bad places to park (other than empty lots): 1. Never park near a police station, as they are very observant of their immediate surroundings. 2. Never park in housing developments or UPSCALE apartment buildings... again, these people tend to be paranoid and hyper-vigilant. 3. Never park where there are alot of children (in a school zone or daycare area, for example), as you may be mistaken for a stalker. 4. Don't park near banks or other high security areas, as again, these people are hyper-paranoid. 5. In general, don't tell friends or others about the locations you park in. 6. If confronted by the police... NEVER admit to sleeping/camping in your vehicle even if its obvious!!!! (tell them you got tired and were "resting" before going home (or to a friends or whatever).
Finally, try to keep your movements slow and gentle when parking overnight... as you don't want people to notice the car shaking or rocking !!