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Safety in numbers: Squatting as social and financial security

Squatter settlements around the world are not generally considered to bestow financial or social security upon the people who live in them. Rather, they tend to be portrayed in two ways.

First, they are often described as places that trap people in poverty. The rationale is that lack of access to capital – economic, social, cultural – make the barriers to socioeconomic mobility so high as to be virtually insurmountable without outside intervention. People are, in this view, stuck in a “cycle” or “culture” of poverty.

Second, squatter settlements are overwhelmingly viewed as places of precariousness. Residents live a hand-to-mouth existence, employment opportunities are tenuous, and the future is uncertain.

Moreover, given residents’ illegal occupation of the land on which they live, the threat of eviction hangs over these communities, discouraging people from improving their homes and thereby precluding their chances of (literally) building up their investments. Squatter settlements are subject to change, but again, not in a desirable way.

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