New research concludes criminalisation of squatting would be criminalising the most vulnerable

Squatting: a homelessness issue , the recent report by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) outlines exactly what the title suggests: far from being a criminal justice issue, squatting should be treated as a housing and welfare issue. The research was undertaken on behalf of homelessness charity Crisis, and reveals squatters to be some of the most vulnerable of all homeless people.

Some of the key finding were:

  • Squatting was found to be a common amongst homeless people. 40% of those surveyed had squatted at some point, with 6% on any one night.
  • Homeless people squat out of necessity, often as the only alternative to sleeping on the street.
  • Most homeless people who squat (78%) have approached their local council for help and although they were recognised as homeless they were not entitled to housing as they did not meet the strict set criteria to be considered a priority. The assistance they were offered was either non-existent of little use
  • People with limited access to welfare benefits and single people who are not a priority for social housing are much more likely to end up squatting as the only way to resolve their homelessness
  • Every homeless squatter surveyed occupied empty, abandoned buildings including flats awaiting demolition, disused warehouses or empty schools. Squatters preferred properties where they were least likely to attract attention.
  • The vast majority of squats were in poor condition, with broken windows, lack of water, heating and electricity, damp and vermin all common

Read the full report here