Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Squatdoyouthink, 1 : USgal

Last Friday, Atom Tom interviewed USgal for her thoughts about squatting.

So, why are you squatting now?

Basically I believe that housing is the right for everyone, that everybody should get housing. I'm putting my ideas into action in that way. I don't necessarily have to squat, I could pay rent but I definitely feel I wouldn't be as happy if I was in student housing. I wouldn't be experiencing as much as I do now, learning as much as I do now, what goes on on the day-to-day level.

What was your view of squatting before you started?

I didn't have a very concrete impression. A lot of people here have the impression that squatters are dirty and on drugs and stuff like that. When I think of squatters, I would think of developing world squats, of houses made of wood or aluminum corrogated sheets because I've seen that before.

How were you introduced to squatting here?

Through my friend from university and her English boyfriend. I found out she was staying in a squat and she suggested maybe we could open one up as well. At first I was like, "what?!" and then it was like, yeah, that sounds like a very good idea!

How did you find about this squat?

Again through my university friend.

What has been one of the best experiences so far?

Things that I can think of are, that I can do what I want with this place. And learning about electrics has been a big thing here for me. Getting a toilet is really nice, so nice 'cos it happened on Thursday!

The most empowering?

Either learning electrics or living here on my own for the first two weeks.

And the worst?

The council and the cops.

Have you squatted before this?


What is your view of squatting now that you are squatting?

It's definitely gotten more positive, I'd say, or at least more informed. Meeting lots of other people who squat, having it be a personal experience, learning more about squatting culture, not just in London but in other countries as well.

If you could choose, would you squat or pay rented accommodation?

I'd squat.

Why is that?

I feel, if you pay rent or if you squat, it can be as good or as shitty, it's just that one variable, money. And I don't really agree with that. Money is difficult to quantify as to what you get out of it -- like here in London, having to pay so much money for like having a dinky room and crappy landlords, it just doesnt seem right.

Do you think squatting needs a better image to encourage people to participate, eg. do we call it something else?

That's tricky. 'Cos changing the word of something has been done with other things and it can be argued that making a new word for it can mask it. It's not really fixing the whole issue at hand. It could also create divisiveness within the squatting community 'cos a lot of people will be like, "what's the problem with using the word squatting?"

I don't know how to change how the image of squatting is perceived, but I think this blog works because there's information and education here and most information comes from the dominant people who are in power -- you always hear their ideas of what they want. I don't understand why you need to spend so much of your mental space thinking about this arbitary stuff called money. It's like what I was saying before, about paying your landlord £300 a week for a shitty room, I don't see how that makes sense or equals out. How do you agree on something like that if your landlord won't fix your shower!