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.
The first step in this process is to choose a model that does not stand out. I love VW vans as much as anyone... but to a cop they scream "hippy" (and therefore, harassment). I chose a Toyota Van for my most recent hobovehicle (dubbed "The Mystery Machine" by my cousin), 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. You want it to be 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.