Alan, an art teacher in his late 40s, began squatting a few months ago when his marriage broke down. He enquired about social housing, but was told none was available.
"I was born in London and have lived here all my life but it seems I'm expected to go somewhere else where I know nobody," he says.
"Is that what the big society is all about?"Who knows?
I know what it isn’t about, though.
It isn’t about theft. It isn’t about parasitism. It isn’t about entitlement. It isn’t about people getting a free ride on the work of others because they aren’t prepared to make changes.
From Saturday Alan and up to 20,000 other squatters in England and Wales face eviction as police prepare to enforce a radical change to the law which criminalises those occupying residential buildings.The police will probably make a few high-profile raids then go back to fobbing people off at every turn, but hey! It’s a start…
Squatters' rights organisations say the change in the law is unnecessary when legal remedies already exist for property owners …The problem is that they are costly, time-consuming, enrich more - *spit* - lawyers and don’t prevent your home being trashed. Nor do they adequately punish the miscreants.
… while housing charities say that it could trigger a sharp increase in homelessness.Nonsense! By definition, these squatters are already ‘homeless’. They are just hidden from stats!
Police are refusing to comment on any plans to embark on evictions over the weekend, but some eviction notices have already been reported in London.Good. Bring ‘em on!
The ‘Guardian’ continues with it’s cavalcade of sob stories:
Rachel, not her real name, is in her late 20s. She does voluntary work with the NHS.
"This house may be classified as residential," she said, "but it's not fit to live in. We had to stop leaks in the roof and replumb the building.
"We want to improve the building so that we can have an agreement with the owners to stay. Unfortunately they won't talk to us. I have never claimed benefits before but I may have to consider it. Suddenly becoming a criminal overnight is tough. Housing is a basic need."Food is a basic need too. That doesn’t mean we are entitled to steal it from others whenever we want without sanction…
There are, of course, plenty of fakecharities lining up to get their views known:
Myk Zeitlin, a volunteer at the Advisory Service for Squatters, said: "This legislation is badly designed. It is a response to a myth started by sections of the media that people were having their homes squatted while they were out.
"There were already laws to cover such non-existent circumstances."It’s ‘a myth’, is it? Tell that to these people!
Duncan Shrubsole, director of policy for Crisis, the charity for single homeless people, said: "The majority of people squatting are in empty buildings. Forty percent of homeless people have squatted at some time. We will see street homelessness rise if there's a blitz against squats. It will have a dramatic impact."Good. It’s meant to!
Catherine Brogan of Squash, the campaign group which opposed the bill, said: "It's the wrong time to be criminalising homeless people. Rents keep going up. Vulnerable people are being demonised. This will benefit landlords who leave their premises empty."Rather begs the questing, then, when is the right time to be ‘criminalising the homeless’?
And why shouldn’t they leave their premises empty? It’s their property. Who are you to tell them how they should use it?
Peter Risdon argues that the medieval age had a far better solution (citing the blighting effects on future employment prospects of criminalising squatters), but I disagree.
Thieves is what they are. Why shouldn’t they finally be treated as such?
James Higham believes this is just laying the ground for the dystopian nightmare of future rent increases, but again I disagree.
Most of the sqautters that come to press or blog attention aren't ordinary people who've fallen on hard times, but parasites or professional criminals.
Much as it pains me, I salute the ConDems for at least getting something right!