As a recent graduate (with a hefty loan to my name) I found myself ready to live independently, having learned how to look after myself , I believed I was ready to start my own life. Going to university you are led to think that after gaining your degree you are able to obtain all the markers of an ‘adult status’, that is to: gain employment. Find accommodation and no longer rely on your parents for an income. Sadly I found this belief to be so far away from my material reality.
Initially I was forced to move back to my parents house because I could not find any paid employment that could cover rent in a bed-sit flat, never mind a shared house. When my mother struggled to cover the costs for both of us, I was kicked out and with nowhere to go and no job I became reduced to yet another homeless statistic. I had become another young person stuck in a catch 22 situation. This story is too common amongst young people in London, particularly in this economic climate. With the collapse of the youth labour market, a lack of stable full time jobs and a shortage of affordable housing, many of us are finding ourselves increasingly marginalised, isolated and excluded from actively participating in society. Luckily I was able to stay at a squat and I did not have to put myself in any risky situation. The council were unable to provide me with any form of accommodation since I was not ‘a priority’ i.e. I was not under 16, not pregnant and they could not guarantee any hostels since there were “ a lot of homeless people that Christmas”.
If I had not squatted I would not have found any long-term shelter nor food so for me squatting was not just an alternative option to paid accommodation, it was vital for my basic survival. I found myself amongst a network of people who were all supportive, I became involved with other projects that helping the community and providing a space where learning and skill-sharing takes place. I helped run a free school, a space where the public could access workshops and learn about any given subject matter of interest. From my understanding squatting allows a self-sufficiency for people who’s circumstances otherwise would have resulted in decreased life-chances. It enables a dignified way of living in a time where society has reduced our opportunities.