I am interviewing a couple of squatters for my next video project. I met one of the squatters, Antonio, 42, last September in the St. Vincent DePaul soup kitchen where I serve and he eats his meal almost every morning. We befriended one another and with time I began to learn more about him–like his ongoing history of squatting in Chicago houses and apartments. Most recently, he and his friend discovered a two story empty house in Bucktown. There they lived, with limited suspicions from neighbors, and free cable and electricity. Squatting is by no means is a new story. However, the way Antonio described his situation and reasons for squatting sounded unique and I wanted to learn more. So I decided to follow this and see if a story would develop.
I was a bit nervous about going there by myself (one of my roommates bailed) and thought that I was taking a unnecessary risk . Still, I hopped on my bike with camera, extra batteries, notebooks, and tripod in bag as I headed for the house. They were expecting me at 6pm. We would be cooking dinner with the some chicken I picked up on the way.
When I found the place, I knocked and was asked to quickly get inside. I got a tour of the vacant and stripped house, which to my suprise Antonio and his roommate Mike made “homey” with their personal items and photos hanging on the wall next to their sleeping mats. I asked for permission before filming. Slightly nervous, I was guided into the bleak, dimmly lit kitchen to start dinner. Both of them were eager and willing to answer the questions I had, even personal ones about their family and difficult past. I am frustrated that I didn’t have them turn the radio playing in the background turned down. When I replayed the footage later, their voices were difficult to hear. The lighting was def. not the best either. I need to interview them when there are no distractions around.
I never felt like my life was in any kind of danger, although I wondered at times if and why I belonged there.
When I saw Antonio at the soup kitchen today he told me that the real estate agent showed up at the door 20 minutes after I left, saw them and called the police. Antonio and Mike were waiting to go back to the house this morning to grab their personal items before heading into a new house Antonio spotted a few weeks ago as a back up. He was in a rush to get going, but I plan to see him again in couple days at the soup kitchen
I feel like I may be on a wild goose chase, but I haven’t lost interest, so I will keep on it and see what happens.