WARNING: SUPER BORING LONG-ASS POST
I had originally told this story of my experience with long-term squatting in the comments section of another thread over on homeless
, back when I first joined reddit. It was part of a larger discussion about personal attachment to a squat location and knowing when to move on. Multiple people at that time told me that they thought it was interesting enough to deserve a thread of its own, but sadly the moderators of homeless
didn't agree and it was deleted shortly after posting. After talk on the discord today, I've decided fuck it- I'mma repost it here almost a year later. Hope you're in for a long one.
This story took place back when I was a lot younger, and had still relatively recently become "de-housed." I was young and ballsy and way too confident in ways that I never would be today, but in this one shining example younger me got lucky and everything worked out. Maybe some higher power had my back on this one. I dunno.
It's a long ass post and kind of poorly written- Even in just a year, I feel like my ability to compose things in a narrative way has gotten better, but I'm going to post the story more or less exactly the same as I originally wrote it up since A) I'm lazy and B) I don't want to lose the authentic feelings I had when I first put the experience down in words. Some of my opinions and attitudes towards confrontational situations have changed since then, but this is how I genuinely felt back when these events happened.
For those reading who are not yet living the adventure: DO NOT TAKE THIS AS A TYPICAL EXAMPLE. 99% of the time, I squat a location for a single night. Maybe two. Only a handful of times have I stayed put in one building for a week or more. Never have I played the reconstruction game again. I've squatted a lot more houses in a lot more places since this happened, and never ever have I pulled off this long a stay again in any way. Please do not attempt anything you are not sure you can manage, I don't want anyone getting arrested because they read my post.
This is not meant as a "how to" guide, despite me using the framing device of "tips" to show my line of thought at the time; The story is meant to be taken only as the account of one singular experience had by one singular person just trying to survive the best they could and getting exceptionally fortunate in the result.
The story begins with the discovery of a house, one that I walked past frequently to get to my under-the-table employment at the time. It was in a fairly low income area and looked entirely overgrown, so I scouted it as inconspicuously as I could; I watched it on and off every time I walked by the address, at different times of day. My aim was to make sure no one was ever actually there; I had already done a little bit of research on realtor dot com and trulia, where I found out it had been foreclosed three years prior, but I was concerned that other squatters or residents might be using the property. Thankfully for me they were not.
Tip #1: Low income areas have less eyes-on realtors. Realtors are not going to work as hard or be as frequent in checking on property that isn't expected to be worth selling. Add in to the equation years of inactivity and you just might have found your spot.
So after about a week of scouting I just... went with it. Moving in took about two hours in the morning before work and two hours after I got back from work. I had a friend bring his truck over with some old furniture and my stuff, we parked it in the driveway all day. The very first thing I did was walk as nonchalantly as possible, take down the realty sign from "my" front lawn, and then leisurely stroll around to the back of "my" house through the unlocked gate. An air of confidence in this stage was key.
Tip #2: At this stage, I was also assuming that if I was seen busting down the front door, I might be uncovered. So instead I busted in the back door (don't worry I replaced it later) and then unlocked the front from the inside.
After that, I and my helper just generally... acted like we owned the place. Like it was just any normal moving day for any normal new home owner. I had done laundry the day before so that I could look clean-cut and as 'normal' as possible; Avoiding the typical 'homeless' look that normally prevails in my daily life. We took our sweet time conspicuously unloading cardboard boxes and cheap Goodwill furniture on the porch before arranging it inside, purposefully being as relaxed and open about the matter as possible so that the neighbors would all see us doing so. I credit this decision with the overall success of the squat.
Tip #3: Remember! People don't expect trespassers to bring a household worth of furniture with them, but a new neighbor certainly will!
I was able to get the water and electricity (no gas) reconnected pretty easy within the first week of residence- that particular city didn't even require verification of my name or any sort of identification check, which in hindsight feels kind of unusual. Maybe the employees were lazy and I got lucky. I don't know. I found junk mail with the previous owner's name on it and just sent in payments under that alias.
Tip #4: What I do know- I stayed up to date on my utility bills for as long as I could. My assumption (which turned out to possibly be correct) was that if I left the bills unpaid they might look deeper at the address for collections and the jig would be up.
The second thing I did (which probably should have been my first thing) was to secure all the doors and windows. I used older doors and locks that were discarded from a house I was helping work on across the city, so that part cost me nothing. What DID cost almost an entire check was fixing all six of the ground floor windows. Why did I want to accomplish this so fast?
Tip #5: The owner of a house should always hold the keys and the sole entry to his property. If challenged over ownership by a nosy individual (not law enforcement), you can sometimes dispel notions of illegitimacy by simply pointing out that you are the one with the keys to the doors.
Fast forward another month and a half. By this point I was getting greedy. My wallet had recovered from the window purchase and work was still steady. My sense of "professional pride" as a wannabe-contractor told me that the current circumstances just wouldn't do. I didn't just want to live in this ratty old house, I wanted to make it shine again. I started pricing drywall and siding supplies; The floor, upon examination, was reasonably sound so I decided that when I was done with the drywall I would simply throw down some area rugs to make it look better. I needed about 9 sheets of drywall, which my boss sold me at contractor cost. The siding was salvaged again largely off of a house we were renovating and then repainted. I determined that the roof would have to wait for another month as I wanted to do the barely intact porch awning at the same time.
Tip #6: If you are seen to be constructive instead of destructive, people are less likely to find reasons to complain about you.
Skip ahead six months. The roof and porch are done. The siding is done. The interior walls have been re-drywalled and painted. The lawn is tidily mowed and manicured. The fence surrounding the back porch (and the gate I initially entered through) have been patched up and now bear a lock preventing others from getting into my backyard.
By this point I've made inroads with my immediate neighbors on either side; I've helped the elderly lady to the right, Mrs H, with some plumbing issues free of charge and she's rewarded me with just about the greatest tasting food in the world. Her kids don't visit her much so all she has for company is her Chihuahua, affectionately named "Ripper." I try to talk to her whenever I see her outside since I feel sorry for her being all alone.
As for the family to the left (who I suspect also guessed what I was up to all along), they frequently invite me over for BBQ and sporting events. I come over and grab a beer with the father of the family pretty regularly. Sometimes I even babysit their kids and pets. They regularly gift me all sorts of clothing and food because "hey we've got too much, it'll go to waste if you don't use it."
I am more at home here than I have ever felt or will ever feel at any point in my life. My dog is happy and has an entire yard to run around in. I am happy and have a bed to sleep in. This will be the only time in my life I "own" four walls and a roof. It seems like nothing can go wrong.
Tip #7: Be a good neighbor. Act friendly. Be charitable. Offer to help people out if they ask. Be especially nice to the elderly- they will look out for you. Try to fit in with the neighborhood whenever possible.
The seventh month is when it got bad. My food budget started to run low as construction season ended. Work dried up, so I missed payment on a power bill. I'm not sure if this is how the realtors/owners/whothefuckever found out I was in there or not, but it preceded the end times; The realtor that came knocking on the front door only a couple weeks later. A 40-ish well-built gentleman with the name of the real estate company on his shirt, who was pacing around the front of the house, looking in through the windows with what I can only describe as total rage. I answer the door with as much politeness as I can muster... and he begins to yell at me. What are you doing here. You motherfucker. What gives you the right. Get the fuck out. Etc. To be honest I'm still not sure why it wasn't the cops who knocked on the door- At least they might've been more polite about it.
Now, I have a bit of a bad history when it comes to abuse. When someone starts to get aggressive or yells at me, I kind of just shut down and take it. That's just how my brain works. So I'm scared at this point. He's doing his best to peer past me into the front living room. I assume he's expecting to find it trashed. I haven't got any idea if he felt surprised to see it in the condition I'd left it or not. He's talking about involving the cops at this point, though, so I'm petrified.
And then Mrs H comes over with her walker, yappy little rat dog in tow. She starts talking to the realtor, doing her best to explain what "a nice young man" I've been and how I've been so helpful to the neighbors. Despite him having plenty of justification to just blow her off and have me arrested, the dude stops and actually listens. She tells him how hard she's seen me working at fixing up the place, and asks him if he remembers what an eyesore it used to be. She remains one of the most beautiful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
Eventually he stops yelling at me. I'm given a chance to explain myself. I tell the guy as repentantly as I can that, yes, I am willing to acknowledge it is not my house. I explain that I have tried not to make a wreck of it, but that I am homeless and have no other immediate accommodation. I make it clear to him that of course I will vacate the property immediately. At this point my mind is expecting two possible outcomes: One, prick calls the cops. I am arrested and my dog is taken away from me never to be seen again. Or two, he lets me and my dog walk and I am once again back on my feet, but now with the added fears of winter almost upon me and zero resources to draw on.
Neither option happened. This guy did the very last thing I could have expected; He treated me like a fucking human being. He let me know that he wasn't going to just totally overlook this, but that if I were to stay through December there would probably not be any showings of the house in that time. I was warned that if the place was wrecked up when he came back (and that he WOULD be driving by regularly now) I would be on the hook- But that if I kept my nose down, he saw no reason why I couldn't stay in the building a little longer.
Tip #8: Never forget that some day you will have to leave, and be prepared to do so peacefully. Do not become attached to a structure that you ultimately will never have the right to keep.
The ninth month, I departed that neighborhood with bittersweet feelings and a backpack as a new owner purchased and moved into the home that I had built. I have never been back. I think about that place and those people very often. Very rarely have I ever felt like I genuinely belong in a single place, but there in that home... I almost think I might have done alright, were it not for the fact I had no right to be there and no right to stay. It was nothing short of miraculous that I remained stationary as long as I did.
This is a long overdue post. Brought on my a half-hearted smile and a sage nodding of the head in agreement I felt when writing advice for this post. I really need your help
You see it's the cheesecake. I really really deserve that cheesecake.
I am writing to you from a Holiday Inn motel room. I left my addict last night. Yeah, your Founding Mod, the Dear Abby of Advice, finally broke down, fell apart and rolled on outta there. Spent the last 24 hours in a coma of disbelief, relief, and exhaustion. The biggest decision on my plate was how warm I wanted the room...total bliss.
The saddest part. He is probably sober. I am not to porn police so I don't care. But all his other symptoms have become so onerous and stifling that I am unable to function anymore and have started to choke and die.
I have fought for us, him, myself, our families with the heart of a lion and the strength of a warrior, despite my broken soul and bleeding heart. I have been the little engine that could. Well, I cannot anymore.
The burden of his issues, of any addicts issues are just too heavy for another person to carry. Almost all addicts have numerous disorders that only a pro can diagnose. In my addicts case he has an OCD complication of Hoarders dystopia. His father also has the same symptoms, never diagnosed...as they say look to the parents....
They symptoms parrot the sex addicts so even though he may not PMO anymore he still has the other symptoms that throw ones life into chaos. Yet the person cannot see anything wrong with their behavior.
The bathroom has been in a state of remodeling for 35 years...but he's to busy to finish it.
He has never finished the drywall in any of the house in 35 years, but he has been to busy to do it.
Unfinished plywood floors throughout house..but he never had time to put in real flooring....
But you can sure bet during our couples therapy he made sure to point out that I didn't scrub the floors often enough. That was a highlight that will be seared in my mind forever.
I won't bore you with the details, but rest assured, I wouldn't have cracked unless the pressure was immense.
I have decided that for me to survive I need to find myself again. The real me. I know I am in here. I know I am beautiful, strong, smart, worthy. I know that I love myself.
I know that I deserve Homemade New York Cheesecake with fresh strawberries on top and a dollop of fresh whipping cream.
Follow me girls, WE are going to Maine for a little R&R. Update: Monday
Rotten nights sleep, if one could call it that. 4 hours at most, Curled in a little frozen ball. Woke up crippled by tension so thick in my forehead, neck, down my arms and shoulders...the bra was a nonstarter. I was a horror in the mirror. Blotchy, old lady eyes puffed to their height of glory..not a wrinkle in sight if you could believe that. A big juicy cold sore had popped up on my lip over night. Worst of all..I left the effing house without a comb. I'm ready for Halloween early.
We are talking foul, foul mood. Then the piece d' la resistance? I locked myself out of the room trying to place last nights dinner plate outside the door. I just stood there staring at it dumbfounded for at least a minute. I even tried the handle a few times. No shoes, no mask, barley clothed...
Down the elevator I went. Of course I had to stand in line at the front desk. People looking at me out of the side of their eyes, I can just imagine what they thought. This is a nice hotel, I look like a homeless person and I am sure I smelled worse. If I had been my usual self, I would have been snarky and let out a cough and cleared the way...but I didn't think of it in my self-imposed humiliation.
I got a new key card and politely asked for them to send up someone to fix the heat.
I spent some time absorbing some support and sustenance from my subbies here (I love you all) and then made the decision to reach out to 2 good friends and share my struggles on a deeper level. They had not one clue. That wonderful false front we all carry to protect our addicts and ourselves from humiliation, disbelief and denial was hard to break past.
I made a few inroads, but finding support for my decisions was tenuous. Maybe they will come around. I know they love me, but they think I am depressed (Yes, I am) and am overreacting. That it will blow over. You just cannot explain something this traumatic to someone who doesn't live the life.
If I wanted to, I could send them pictures and video, plus send them to this sub, but I am not ready to expose myself in this fashion. The vulnerability of doing so, is just too much. The probable rejection of who I truly am superimposed against who I have presented myself may backfire and I am too fragile mentally to handle the outcome. I already have very few friends, to lose them would be devastating.
I have been asked many times to speak publicly rather then as an anonymous source, but like all of you, my terrors and fears rule me. Until I own myself, I cannot step into the daylight and enjoy the warmth of the sun upon my face.
Anyway, I had worked myself up into a crying jag by noon, the heat still wasn't fixed and I needed to do something about my cramped muscles. I found a masseuse, and on my way out, I screamed at the hapless desk manager about my heat, I mean really screamed, sobbing and crying the whole time. It was worthy of a movie scene. The look on their faces was priceless. I didn't even feel bad.
Got my hot rock massage, if you have never had one...it's the bomb! Totally relaxed all my knotted muscles and my headache went away. I treated myself to lunch then back to the hotel room. Finally slept..Yes the room was nice a toasty.
My firs toe into the waters of "stand up for yourself"?