The Squat



The history of squatting in the UK, primarily in London. News items and home movies portraying the atmosphere of past times, and how the squatting movement has evolved over the years.

New York

The history of squatting in New York, and the rising trend of a more desperate or criminal edge to squatting in the USA.

Global Communities

Squatting in other locations around the world.

External Links

UK Resources and Help

In reality, these links are next to useless for those actually on the street. It's likely there will be no internet access, and no way to send or receive information. Medical help, financial assistance, and proof of ID are all crucial and address dependent. Helping to provide access to online resources, or a physical address which can receive postal mail on someone's behalf, can be the most productive way to help someone to get things started.

For more, read The Postal Paradox released by Citizens Advice, or take a look at a possible solution from Proxy Address


Losing a home can be a fast and direct route to a life of chaos. It can happen to anyone. Many have no options if financial problems occur, or if people find themselves in impossible situations or states of mental health that make eviction difficult to elude.

There seems to be little help from political parties of any persuasion, and the social aspect is totally lost under the commercial value of land and property.

Some just can't cope and fall deeper into an abyss which leads into worlds that can be difficult to understand and explain to others.

A Vanishing Act

Homelessness is an isolating experience. People faced with such stark circumstances have to evolve emotionally as they progressively descend into a vicious cycle full of form-filling and dead-ends that makes re-establishing any kind of decent personal space or social standing a difficult task. Sadly, many run out of options or can't cope with such a complex situation. They simply drop out of the support system and disappear. A vanishing act that's not at all magical.

I just can't imagine it...

Many express that they can't imagine what it's like to be homeless. Well, think about it this way. If you've ever locked yourself out of your apartment or house, you already understand how fast control of the situation is lost, and how quickly the feelings of anxiety or frustration can rise. You are on the outside with no way in, everything you hold dear is out of reach. Things you take for granted also become more obvious. Heat, water, the bathroom.

You tap your foot as you wait for a locksmith. Now imagine that locksmith never arrives. Time goes on. Friends and neighbours sympathize but lives go on. It's getting dark. It's getting cold. Still no locksmith. You long for a cup of coffee in your cosy kitchen - so near, yet so far.

Sadly, for some, the arrival of a locksmith signals the final step of eviction, and people's lives are changed as quickly as the locks. For others, home situations, lack of stability in life, or just bad luck can have the same result. The more ambitious try their luck by moving to cities to look for opportunity. Money soon runs out, dreams are swiftly replaced with harsh reality. There is no way back, and feelings of bewildering loss and sheer desperation start to dominate life. Nowhere to store possessions, and no quick fix. People are exposed and vulnerable. This is how it starts for many.

Initial options often include hotels or basic bed and breakfast accommodation, but lack of availability and dwindling funds can lead to couch-surfing or hostels. Or nothing at all. This is particularly dangerous as many support processes require an address. Once there is no address, there is no route to support. Cold online forms just won't work if the minutest detail is missing, and the process of registering for services or creating accounts cannot even begin. How is it possible to triumph over the insentient bureaucracy of today without having an address?

Opportunity Knocks

Across the road is a house that has been empty for a long time. Someone tries the back door. It creaks open. The place is shabby and obviously unlived in. Now what?

Shelter, an address, and some kind of personal security are the undeniable benefits. Taking a chance when there's nothing further to lose, is a chance many will take.

Adverse Possession

A brave option is the adverse possession of vacant property, commonly referred to as squatter's rights which may offer a glimmer of hope (or not, depending on ever-changing legislation).

Housing or buildings that are obviously neglected or empty for the long-term seem to be fair game. The idea is to move in, denying the legal boundaries of trespass, but heeding various conditions. Seems to make sense, and those who clean up and maintain buildings, and get back on their feet, can only benefit local society and themselves. Neighbours may well turn a blind eye if their immediate area is improved and taken care of. Rubbish disappears, unloved gardens are tided up and broken windows replaced.

Interim Possession Order

However, there is a grey area that can occur in long running, non-legal building occupations where people have settled and made lives for themselves. There could be claims or rights for the occupants if they have followed the laws of the time, but if this is not the case, the housing nightmare returns as forced eviction can occur, regardless of length of stay or how much time and money has been put into improvements. This inevitably stirs up high emotions and angst, but what is the right conclusion if the real legal owners eventually turn up?

Squatting? Sounds awful...

The word squat in itself can give a false mental picture. Dark and gloomy shells with dripping ceilings and buckets for toilets is often conjured up by the word squat, which is just down the road from squalor.

In reality, squats may well start that way, and yes, some do stay in a grim state, but in many cases they become homes as the temporary residents rebuild, decorate, and apply their homely touches. Services are reconnected, the damp eases and a community builds.

There are many well documented cases in the sixties and seventies when squats gave rise to stable communal living. The residents included community minded people and families, along with students, musicians and artists who wanted to get close to the buzz of cities, or were undecided about their future paths and needed time to figure things out. All found solace in such places.

However, things became more critical in later decades as gentrification took hold and housing became more valuable. More and more people were priced-out of the market as family homes were replaced by swanky new dwellings, rental investments or holiday homes. Today, it is just about impossible to get on the property ladder.

Times have changed

Unfortunately, things are now more desperate and there are also those with ulterior motives, which has changed the idea behind squatting over the decades. Especially today, many so-called squatters drift into selfish or criminal ways of life that harms the hard work and social advances made by the more successful squatting communities of the past, and the communities of today who respect the law, the neighbourhoods, and the properties they occupy.

Cases where buildings are taken during small windows of temporary vacancy, or tenants refusing to vacate after rental contracts end, now seem to be more prevalent. Taking homes from others who obviously plan to use a property, or squatting just to avoid paying rent is not the name of the game. As a consequence, the idea of squatting is no longer accepted as an unspoken process. Blind eyes that were turned in the past are now replaced with anger and intolerance. This kind of behaviour degrades public support, which in turn makes fighting for rights and the re-purposing of potential properties for the homeless all the more difficult.

Needs remain the same

There is a glaringly obvious need for low-cost accommodation for people who want to get restarted in life, and spaces where the younger generation can experiment with life choices and cohabitation without huge rents or insurmountable financial implications.

Are those who take matters into their own hands, and squat in buildings that are obviously abandoned or vacant for the long-term wrong to do so?

What would you do if faced with the grim choice of sleeping on the street, or staying in a squat illegally?

The debate rages on as tent cities, rough sleeping and cardboard shelters are seen across many major cities, populated by people who are there by misfortune, who are now thrust into environments that often include violence, abuse and addiction. Not everyone on the street is drunk, high, lazy or criminally-minded as stereotyping suggests. Some just need a little help.

If that help doesn't appear, initiative and self-preservation tend to take over. Living in a squat can be the only viable DIY solution that provides some kind of hope and dignity. Squats also provide a low-cost start for those exploring the more creative paths, paths that are otherwise out of reach as education systems fail and financial support for creative industries is either limited, or simply not there.

Several of today's long-established artists and musicians were in or around such community environments during their earlier years, which gave them time to experience and experiment within different creative cultures. The resulting contributions to music and art speak for themselves.

There are good sides and bad sides to squatting, but the main point is that homelessness should not exist in modern society unless it is a chosen path.

There are empty buildings. There are people on the streets. There are young people who would benefit from housing support. Close-out the extreme and selfish at both ends of the housing spectrum, and there must be some kind of sensible solution and a little goodwill for the younger generations and those in need - right?

Rich Black MMXXIII

Video Playlists and Links

This feature aims to present realistic and unbiased information. The content has been researched, but is in no way official or intended for use as legal advice, or is to be seen as validation or encouragement to break the law.

url: webstar.world/squat