Squatting in the UK does pose a massive issue. I admit that. But so far, it is an issue without a solid solution. I personally think it’s about time we showed just a little compassion to the human race.
First things first. Let’s consider exactly what circumstances would lead to someone becoming a squatter. It certainly isn’t by choice – that is just a ridiculous suggestion. We are living in a recession. People are being made redundant on a regular basis and work is hard to come by now more than ever. Slowly but surely no income leads to not being able to pay rent or mortgages. A lot of this goes under the radar, but entire families are being forced into homelessness all over the country.
So what next? Start living on the streets? What kind of a life is that for a family with young children and no other options? I will tell you what kind. It is dangerous, demoralising and just plain wrong. Squatting may not be the perfect solution, but it is undeniably better than living on the streets. Not only does it provide shelter but it allows groups of people to form communities that can support, motivate and keep each other safe.
I can see how a lot of people would be against squatters rights – based on some of the atrocious stories that have received coverage in the media in recent years. But it must be realised that these are in the minority of cases and most squatters can go completely unnoticed for long periods. So much so, in fact, that the government have found it difficult to even estimate the number of squatters currently ‘residing’ in the UK. The last figure released was in 2003 and estimated a total of 15,000 – just imagine how this has increased as the recession has taken its toll.
So what now? Imprisonment? Fines? Way to solve the situation. These propositions from the government literally make no sense. I say we allow the majority to continue living in houses and building which have long been abandoned and deal with the minority of troublemakers on a case by case basis. Can you honestly justify stripping families and established communities of shelter, safety and hope?