This year Britain has seen a rapid increase in rough sleepers, leaving many homeless people to survive the rough winter and cold temperatures. Budget cuts in Britain are one of the leading factors in the rise of homeless people. Unfortunately, local authorities open emergency shelters only when zero temperatures are forecast for three consecutive nights. Many rough sleepers are facing extreme conditions. The death of a 35-year-old Aylesford man, Daniel Gauntlett, could be the result of a recent law that criminalizes squatting in the U.K.
Gauntlett previously had occupied an abandoned house, but was arrested and charged under the new law, which prohibits living in a residential building without authorization. The law can lead to prison time and/or a hefty fine. Gauntlett later died of hypothermia, after sleeping outside under a makeshift tent.
Owners of residential buildings, even those empty and/or abandoned, are causing an uproar against homeless people squatting. This has caused local authorities to strictly enforce the new law, leading to numerous arrests of rough sleepers, and a number of deaths from hypothermia.
The United States has its own problems with homelessness, empty or abandoned buildings, and absentee landlords, but coverage of the ongoing British story has been practically non-existent. An exception was a 2011 New York Times report that depicted squatters as criminals looking to take advantage of someone else’s property.
Tracy McVeigh and Chris Hunter, “The Father Who Froze to Death in a Kent Village,” The Guardian, April 13, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/apr/14/father-who-froze-to-death-kent.
“Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes,” Squashcampaign.org, November 21, 2013, http://www.squashcampaign.org/.
“Squatting Made LESS Simple,” Advisory Service for Squatters, November 21, 2013, https://www.squatter.org.uk/for-new-squatters/squatting-made-less-simple/.
“Anti-squatting Law Should Be Repealed,” The Guardian, March 25, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/25/squatting-law-should-be-repealed.
“Squatting and the law,” Gov.uk, November 8, 201,. https://www.gov.uk/squatting-law.
Sarah Lyall, “Making Empty Homes Less Inviting to the Uninvited,” The New York Times, October 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/05/world/europe/britain-plans-to-tighten-anti-squatter-laws.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.
Student Researcher: Rachel Garrison (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)