Letter: Squatting: a problem or a benefit?

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read with dismay the proposed legislation to criminalise the squatting of empty or derelict property. Michael Howard has manifestly failed to listen to the people who really understand homelessness issues (the police, the Law Society, Shelter and the other housing organisations) and instead pandered to the shire party faithful who know nothing about the misery of pounds 60-a-week city bedsits and dodgy landlords, while hundreds of thousands of council and government properties stand empty.

When I became a squatter four years ago, myself and a few friends were positively welcomed into our new home by our tenant neighbours. They were very glad that at least somebody was happy to move in next-door and look after the house, remove the boarding and remove the visual blight of an empty house from the street. They gave us cups of tea and encouraged us to do what local and national government have failed to do: make a house into a home.

But of course we don't hear about all the nice squatting stories like that, of the street parties and park festivals organised by squatters, of the increased sense of community, of the reduction in vandalism and other crime.

First they came for the unions. Then it was the travellers and gypsies, then the ravers, then the single mothers, and now the squatters. Who's next?

Yours faithfully,

GLYN WALTERS

London, N16

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