Support Your Local Squatters
I squat and I am not intimidated of the Portland Police Bureau, for-hire security, park rangers or any bank. Nor do I feel obligated to pay for housing. I’m not intimidated by continuous busts of individuals who make use of open space for housing and community needs. I see these endeavors as actions to reclaim our power. I stand in solidarity with individuals who have been evicted, who sleep in doorways, under bridges, on freight trains and in the middle of fields. I stand with you who sleep in Portland Parks, who live in the various encampments on public city land (Right 2 Survive, Right 2 Dream Too and, Dignity Village), as well as victims of foreclosures and intimidation from banks and those who realize their chains and slave away at their jobs to ensure their own sanity and the safety of their family and guests. Those of you who pay for your nests and offer space to others without exchanges of money are greatly appreciated and we love you for your openness. And those of you who have misplaced/found your minds simply by being susceptible to modern day stresses and generations of repression and decide to roam, may you find what it is you are looking for. Is there anything we can offer any of you?
Words like “unfair” are common in discussions with individuals who work 40+ hours a week and consider jobless and houseless folks lazy. Those who take action and claim space are viewed as going outside social norms. You can have whatever views you choose. I see squatting from different perspectives. Most houseless folks have been tossed aside by society. Whether it’s because of abuse in the home, the rejection of societal norms, following a spiritual path or the lack of perceived opportunities for lower-income folks, we take a chance at fate by doing something out of the ordinary. We play our cards; that’s all anyone could do. We’re not all professional card players.
There is nothing wrong with the use of empty space. There’s nothing wrong in reclaiming corporate property. I believe there are only communal and shared spaces. The concept of ownership is a tricky subject. How can a corporation claim that they own a house when they cannot possibly own the resources other corporations stole by extracting from ecosystems on a planet which has no way of being owned? How can any institution say they own property when the land is something for all to experience and partake in? We aren’t born owning anything; we simply exist as other life exists with us. Corporations, however, do claim ownership, and this is wrong. If you were to visit a forest and sit underneath a tree, you would not claim that you own the tree. You might claim it to be yours for the time being, but only insofar as you are using it. I don’t see how the use of chopped-up trees, metals, glues, vinyl, paints, etc. is any different. To call it a home only means it has an intention to be a container for a specific use. Homes are containers used for protection from the elements, privacy, sleep, cooking, storage, social space and peace of mind. I perceive that I need space for these ends and I claim space and use it for some of those purposes, depending on where it is I am. When I am done respecting my chopped-up trees, I’ll move on and someone else can utilize what has been created and left.
Living in a home is a privilege and is something which is taken for granted. Please take the time to check yourself. Most folks don’t understand what it’s like living with uncertainty while your physical health and mental sanity deteriorate because of stress and anxiety or constantly being woken up and asked to move. Excuse me, I was sleeping and not bothering anyone. And if someone is bothered, it’s their discomfort about their status they should be worrying about. People start looking at you differently or looking away from you because you’re not wasting water and are dirtier than they are and you carry what belongings you have in your pack, like your portable bed, i.e. a sleeping roll. They judge you for having the freedom of travel, for having no institutionalized work, for searching for a good spot to rest, for living with spontaneity and ingenuity. It fills the heart to sleep under the stars or to finally find a solid place to store the junk you’re carrying so you can rest your back. Maybe there’s even a nice bed and no rats. But, oh, a Portland basement without mold and rats is utopia itself!
There is more constructed empty space than there are houseless folks. There are few old-growth forests left as a result of this exaggerated construction. Let us honor what we have destroyed and then created, make use of what is available, and have no regrets about it. There are many ways you can make use of space: break and enter, find unlocked entries, refuse to pay for the property you are already inhabiting and refuse to leave. Generate community support and build a network of resistance/affinity/solidarity. One could research their housing rights or not care and continue to pursue efforts to find a home. Set up camp on public land. Create a village on forest land and claim it on the grounds of religious freedom. Make space into sleeping quarters or community space like a bookstore, health clinic or kitchen/free restaurant. Ask the owners of vacant buildings/land if you can stay there. Sometimes work trade is involved. There’s no need to be militant or dogmatic about the situation either. If a property owner doesn’t want to deal with the home but is okay if you clean it up and do yard work in exchange to stay there, that’s awesome! If you are able to do chores for a couch, that’s great. The point is to look outside the normal scope of how our society runs and create an opening where something different can be allowed to come through into larger awareness.
We are are powerful and we don’t need excuses. So, please, expand your mind. Squat, support your local squatters and offer up your space, or, well, we’ll take it.