A Meal And A Hot Shower

A number of years ago, I volunteered to man the telephones during a pledge drive for WBAI, a New York-based non-commercial, listener-supported radio station, whose programming featured political news, talk and opinion from a left-leaning, liberal or progressive viewpoint, and eclectic music.

During popular programs that offered nice gift incentives for pledges, the phones never stopped ringing. When a less popular show was on the air, the phones experienced plenty of downtime. This was when you got to meet your fellow volunteers. Most were friendly, chatty folks, happy to make connections with people who shared their political interests, some were dyed in the wool anti-establishment protestors whose roots were still firmly planted in the hippie movement, and then there was Dave. And he sat next to me. Because I am a magnet for the unusual.

It was the middle of summer, and a brutal one, if memory serves, and Dave was wearing a wool hat, and thick cable knit sweater, with a woolen scarf beneath his puffer coat. But that wasn’t the first thing I noticed about Dave. Not to be cruel, but Dave hadn’t quite gotten his body odor under control. But he was friendly, so we got to talking and in the course of the conversation, Dave admitted that he was a homesteader.

Now, to me, a homesteader was a person who lived and grew crops on land given by the government, so I bombarded him with homesteading questions because I was genuinely curious about the arrangement. He had to stop me in order to explain the modern usage of the term. Dave would break into abandoned buildings, run extension cords to the street lamps for electricity, and arrange to receive mail at the address for at least a month to prove residency in order to avoid being tossed out onto the street without undergoing a proper eviction process.

Squatting wasn’t anything new, and in New York there used to be a law that if squatters were able to restore a derelict building with everything (electrical, plumbing, etc.) up to code, then they could petition as a group to form a business entity and place a bid to purchase the property, using the cost of repairs as a down payment.

Dave wasn’t a part of any such coalition. He was a one-man army and he claimed that he was facing ongoing battles with the owners of the abandoned properties—throwing his possessions out on the street, re-padlocking the property, sending “muscle” to physically evict him, etc.—but this is not the true issue of the post.

Dave (whose name wasn’t “Dave” because I wouldn’t out him like that) had no income and he lacked the skill set to rig the pipes in the abandoned buildings to run water, so he cased houses, and when he was sure that the owners were either away at work or on vacation, he broke into their homes, took showers, and made meals for himself before he left. He claimed he never took anything besides food, always cleaned up after himself, and effected minor repairs if he saw something that needed fixing.

So, the real issue of this post (a bit of a departure from normal) is to ask you a question:

“Besides the obvious breaking and entering charges, how severe a crime do you think the use of the shower and the fixing of a meal is, assuming Dave entered your home without your knowledge or permission?”

Please let me know in the comments below.

Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

13 responses to “A Meal And A Hot Shower

  1. The obvious charges are the only ones that matter. He’s taking a person’s sense of security in their own home away. That’s not easily replaced. As a society, we have chosen to not address the marginal citizens, so this is what happens. There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who has nothing to lose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Couldn’t agree more, but when this became the topic of conversation in the pledge room, there were a greater number of people who supported him and found ways to justify his actions.

      Thanks for reading and participating!

      Like

  2. Still a crime, yes, but not a severe one. Drama, the sense of security is a rather tenuous one. We’ve all seen how fragile glass is, yet we make much of the borders of our secure area out of it. That should be symbolic enough in itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If what “Dave” said was true (I only have his word on it) and he only showered and fixed himself a meal (this being separate from the breaking and entering crime) then maybe a point could be made that the offense isn’t necessarily severe enough to warrant the same punishment meted out to murderers and such, but what about the homeowners? I would feel violated and never safe in my home again. Where’s the consideration for the emotional damage done to people whose homes have been invaded?

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  3. The presumptions of this kind of situation are that the person in the home is a violent felon and has asked to be exterminated, for posing potentially lethal risks to the homeowner and other residents. It’s pretty much impossible to act that way without sending the message of being a severe threat and causing distress and other damages far beyond the value of a meal.

    This points to a need for society to have more workable means of survival for people living outside the presumptions of economic system participation. In urban areas, that’s very difficult, due to land and infrastructure costs, and an inability for people to live self-sufficiently without relying on many money-driven pieces of urban systems. In rural areas, it’s difficult because of transportation and access to things not usually practical to make or farm oneself.

    There are large numbers of people living in Intentional Communities on far lower budgets than most people realize is possible, often with better quality of life than others with 10-20 times the personal cash flow, but those communities try to screen for compatible goals and adequate mental health as to be a functional community member. At present the only real place our society has for people outside all those options is prison, a very costly and dehumanizing approach to situations like this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve only had a single interaction with the man and he didn’t seem violent to me, but I couldn’t testify in court that he wasn’t prone to violent outbursts. As to his mental state, obviously, he has a different way of processing problems and coming up with solutions.

      While NY has a serious homeless problem, it also has enough soup kitchens to provide at least two meals daily to those who are hungry, and there are centers that offer showers to the homeless at least twice a month.

      “Dave” knows about these services and for his own reasons has decided to go a different route. How should the legal system address that, if he were to be captured?

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  4. The homesteading part would help recover both subprime and Alt-A housing markets in relatively little time. By ensuring that there are people tending to the walk-aways, they are less likely to be stripped for scrap metal. This would in turn help prevent banks from going under by restoring some value to the homes (which were overvalued, to begin with) instead of “totaling” them. This prevents more federal market intervention: fewer FDIC bailouts of depositors, fewer FDIC takeovers of financials, lesser federal spending pressure on debt. These (gasp) victimized “owners” of abandoned buildings are banks, towns, cities. they don’t go “on vacation” and “come home” to an intruder.

    Breaking into people’s houses? It’s wrong because burglary’s become his occupation. I don’t care if it’s just to bathe and eat, that’s a serious crime and I’d want him to do serious jail time if he was caught and convicted.

    The same effort he put into squatting in abandoned buildings and breaking into homes, he could apply toward getting his life in order and being a part of society rather than leeching off of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NY is chockablock with abandoned properties, especially in the poorer neighborhoods, and some of them have remained vacant for as long as I can remember, so I am pro homeless people occupying them and bringing them up to code and putting them to good use.

      You raise a good point about burglary becoming “Dave’s” profession, and though I’m not in a position to say for sure, he could see this as the easier path to travel, than taking the necessary and difficult steps to becoming a productive member of society again (if indeed he ever was).

      Like

  5. Homesteading in abandoned buildings, where security is less of an issue and therefore to me, the “punishment” should be somewhat limited to something along the lines of what was taken and how much it cost.

    But that seems to have changed as this person likes the finer things that the rest of us work for. And while there are many unfortunates in our society, there is no reason to automatically assume this is one of them. Further, we don’t need to assume the person is a violent felon, the bottom line is that he is in someone’s home. Generally speaking, home is the place of retreat for us, the last place to go. If someone were to break into my home with me in it, I would feel justified in killing him. It’s not my job to decipher his motives. It’s my job to protect myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m on board with everything you’ve said, except the killing part. Granted I’m not in the situation of being at home when a burglar breaks in so I don’t know what I’d actually do in that moment, but I don’t believe that murder would be my default response.

      Like

  6. Dave sure didn’t feel any remorse in doing what he did. I think invading another’s privacy is a grave offense. In the act of breaking and entering, and then helping himself to showers and free food, Dave crossed several lines that we all have established in different aspects of our lives. I feel even intrusive conversation is a big no-no. So this is definitely something I condemn. Why didn’t Dave put all his effort in something more constructive? It’s all about choices and condoning one’s perspective.
    Rhyan, you sure attract the unusual. I am already scarred by okra lady. Take care, my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • In total honesty, I couldn’t tell if Dave was telling the truth, if he was lived in a fantasy world, if he was a habitual liar, or just an actor trying to get into character by exposing a scripted reality on the unwashed masses (I’ve run into a few of them before…I even met Richard Gear in a soup kitchen once posing as a homeless man for a movie role) and what made me suspicious was that he was so open and honest about his actions, and as you and other have pointed out, showed not one ounce of remorse.

      But sifting through my box, I came across this story and decided to get outsider opinions on it. I’m still not convinced the story was genuine.

      And I think that Dave and Okra-Sex-Smell would make a lovely pairing.

      You look after yourself, as well, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

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