The Importance of the Car Cover
There are two classes of homelessness, with car and without car. Without car is hard, very hard. I don't recommend it to anyone. If you are homeless and without a car, my best advice to you is couch surf. Stay with your friends until you can get a car. Sell anything you have to get a car. It is best if the car runs, but running is not essential as long as it is small enough to push. The car can be in any condition, damaged, new, old, used, stinky, cruddy, rusty. Who cares? It is a car. I don't even care if you can drive. Get a car.
If you can't drive, you're going to want to fix that. That's for another time, though.
A car is shelter. A car is a place to sleep. A car is a mobile storage unit. There is no other device that will do as much for you, short of ending your homelessness. But a car, on its own, is not enough. If you sleep in your car in a city, you will meet with local law enforcement. There is nothing quite so unpleasant to wake up to as the sound of a baton hitting a window beside your head. Take it from one who knows by experience.
To provide for concealment, get yourself a car cover. Cover the car and while no one is looking slip up under the edge, open the door as far as you are able, slip into the car, close the door and go to sleep. Whack, whack, whack. What the hell? Meet your local sheriff.
It isn't quite enough to have the car and to use the car cover. Car covers have a nasty habit of being blown about by wind, and you can easily be uncovered as you sleep. An even bigger complicating problem is that car covers attract car thieves. Your car will be an even bigger target for thieves because of your necessary choice of parking locations. To deal with this problem you will need to tie the cover down at four points, front and rear bumper, and both sides. I usually send a line underneath the car (by attaching a weight to the line and tossing it under) and tie the sides of the car cover to itself. This procedure makes it more difficult to get into the car, but if thieves or police come, you will have warning and time to compose yourself before you have to face the problem.
There is a combat element to homelessness, but as every martial artist you ask will tell you, the best way to win a fight is not to be in the fight. Car thieves are easy to deal with, if you understand the psychology of thievery. Thieves will be attracted to a covered car, because they will believe that it is more valuable than the average vehicle. After all, the owner is taking good care of it. The thief will approach, leery of police, and to a lesser extent worried about being observed by citizens. He will begin trying to remove the cover, and you will hear the commotion. Adrenaline will course through your body, and you may be tempted to yell. Don't.
Be patient. Be sure it is not a cop. Look through the cover, to the extent you can. Search for glints that would reveal a badge. Look for the beam of a flashlight. Look for the red and blue strobes that reveal a police vehicle. Look for these things, because police require different tactics.
Now, when you are sure it is a thief, lean on the horn. The thief, terrified by the unfamiliar will retreat. In all my years in a car, I only had one thief return for a second try. They all ran away, and only one came back. That one did not return after a second blast of the horn. This plan works for several reasons. One is that the loudness of a car horn attracts unwanted (for the thief) attention that a car alarm never brings. People are looking out their windows, getting angry. The thief imagines that soon they will be coming out of their houses, calling the police, making noise complaints. His imagination isn't even focused. He just knows that he didn't plan this, and for a criminal any unplanned event is frightening. If you had yelled instead, he might have continued to attack. A thief may be well prepared for a fight. He may even welcome the chance to mug you. He never considered the possibility that a horn would sound though, and that scares him, because he has no plan. He runs.
Now the police are another matter entirely. One thing you definitely do not want to do is present a police officer with an unfamiliar and frightening situation. Police are dangerous, and they are trained to press the attack forward when confronted with novel problems. Novel equals criminal in the mind of a police officer. Don't scare them.
Once you are certain it is a police officer, you need to establish communications. Ask them to identify themselves. Who's out there? They'll tell you it's the cops. Placate them. Let them know they have nothing to fear. Tell them what you are doing. Okay. Give me a minute. I need to put some shoes on. Okay, I'm opening the door now. Okay, I'm coming out. This is going to be a bit unpleasant for awhile. They're going to ask you what you were doing. They're going to tell you that you can't do that. They're going to require you to move on. Be submissive. Don't argue. Don't tell them much. Tell them your girlfriend, or boyfriend, kicked you out and you haven't figured out where to go yet. If it doesn't fly, don't worry too much about it.
They're going to want to search your car. My advice is not to consent to the search. If you have anything even vaguely illegal, weapons, drugs, whatever, do not consent to a search, but I advise you not to consent on general principles. Remember, too, that it is not unknown for a police officer to plant evidence. It's harder for them to do that if you don't consent to the search. The fourth amendment states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Trust me, they do not have a warrant. You may worry that they could charge you with sleeping in your car. Tell them you weren't sleeping, they came along and made that impossible. You were meditating. In any case, it is a law used to give the police power. I have spoken with city attorneys in several cities and emailed several more around the country. Every one said that they do not prosecute people on the basis of that law. For awhile I asked police to charge me because I wanted to challenge the law on human rights grounds, and each time the police said they preferred to let me off with a warning. The danger of these municipal ordinances is that they empower the police to threaten the homeless. They do not empower them to prosecute the homeless. Know that and you take their power away.