Photos:

Panhandling Krispy Kreme dumpster Sleeping in an alley About to dumpster dive Packing my backpack My sister at a squat

The project:

This project tracks and records the lives of squatters, or dirty kids, in Gainesville.

Squatting involves living on the streets, in abandoned buildings or with anybody who will house you.

Squatters travel from town to town by hitchhiking, train hopping or any other way they can figure out.

While there is always a risk with the police, violence or being taken advantage of, many squatters feel it's the only way to live.

Safety

I don't have much to say about safety because it was the area I struggled with the most, but here are some trade techniques that others have taught me.

Carry a knife and mace on you to help you if you are mugged or even to ward people off.

Keep a flashlight on you so you aren't completely in the dark.

Try to never be alone with someone outside in the dark.

Keep your phone handy and ready to call for help if needed.

Out of everything, the thing I was worst about in my experience was safety.

For example, I met Savage, a 20-year-old traveler, and before interviewing him he started joking with a friend. He pulled out his gun and shot it at the ground. I wasn't prepared for it at all, but I moved on and interviewed him after it. During the interview, he told me stories of hiim pulling his knife on people to take food or money. I had nothing on me that would've stopped a similar attack on myself. His justification was, "If I have to eat, then I have to eat." So be careful with walking around alone.

Dirt, a 28-year-old squatter who you can find interviews of in the Videos section, talked about several of squatters who got arrested for murder or rape.

People aren't lying when they say squatting is dangerous, but something about squatting keeps people coming back.