How To Become A Squatter

The unemployment rate is soaring. Rent prices are skyrocketing. How can someone even afford to live in cities like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco? That’s where becoming a squatter comes into play. A big lifestyle choice in the U.K., squatting consists of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied building that the squatter does not own, rent, or have permission to use. (We didn’t say it was completely legal.) [lead image via Gwoeii / Shutterstock]

Formed in 1992, the San Francisco anarchist group Homes Not Jails‘ mission is to seek out vacant spaces for homeless people. They believe housing is a human right — as long as people are forced to live on the streets, these anarchists will continue to open squats in unused buildings.

I met up with the guys behind Homes Not Jails. If you’re ever interested in becoming a squatter, here are a few tips and things to look for when trying to find a squatting location:

-For Sale Signs or Any Notice of a Public Hearing
This is a trumpet raised that the location is vacant. A surefire test to see if anyone is using the space is by leaving a small slip of cardboard wedged in the door frame. Come back the next night; if the slip of cardboard is still in the door, that means no one has opened it since the last time you were there. Also, a produce tie wrapped around a door or gate is very effective; check back to see if it’s broken to determine if someone has been inside.

-Garbage Day
A vacant place doesn’t need to put out garbage on the curb for trash day. Time to set up your squat.

-A Lockbox
Utilized by real estate agents for showing vacated premises, after staking out a locale, look for a lockbox outside the front door. In the squatter mindset, don’t think of it as a “lockbox,” but more as “keys inside.”

Tools of the Squatter
To secure a property a squatter should carry with them crowbars, lock cutters, dead bolts, screwdrivers, tape, nails, lock pickers, sleeping bags, car batteries for electricity, flashlights.

Once a place is secured, make it look like a home: have mail sent to the address, get the PG&E bill set up in your name, keep the place clean—make it look like you are legally there.

CONGRATULATIONS! You have successfully set up your own squat!

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