Squatting is relatively common for single homeless people with 39 per cent having squatted at some point.
Most homeless people who squat try other avenues for resolving their housing problems before turning to squatting. While a few describe the squats as in a reasonable condition and have positive experiences living in them, this is not the case for many. The conditions in squats are often difficult to discern from rough sleeping; with dereliction, discomfort, and life with no amenities or furniture typical.
“It was rat infested, water everywhere, needles, urine, smashed ceiling, freezing cold in the winter, candles, tin foils, needles, can’s, drugs”.
Many homeless people who squat are vulnerable. According to research, 37 per cent have mental health problems, 52 per cent have been in prison and 20 per cent are alcohol dependent.
The risk of criminalisation
As well as having to live in difficult and dangerous situations, homeless people who squat are at risk of criminalisation. In the past, the act of squatting was not illegal but criminal damage to property was and squatters could be arrested and serve time in jail for the offence.
The Government has rushed through a change in England that means squatting in “residential” buildings is now punishable with up to a year in prison and a £5,000 fine. This includes buildings that are totally derelict and so could mean that homeless people will end up in prison for simply trying to put a roof over their heads.