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And Then There Was Silence

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Kitty doesn't approve

Squatter Bother

Across the road from us, in the bush land, live a small community of squatters. Their numbers fluctuate frequently, there does seem to be some consistency in who lives there. And they use the water tap at the front of our house for their water source.

The squatters are a source of frustration for me because they sometimes want more than just water. They want a safe place to store their groceries (our house). They want a spare mattress (guess whose?). They want a lift around town (guess which car they have in mind). They want a kitchen to cook their food in (no prizes for guessing which kitchen). They still have a torch of ours that James gave them. They want bread. They wash themselves on our front porch where the tap is.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Kat is a scrooge. These people want these things because they don't have access to them and need them. But that simply isn't the case. They have so much money coming in from the government. They have access to housing through their families that they've chosen to live apart from. And when James happens to answer the door, they often get given what they want because he's way more sympathetic towards them. What these people NEED is a budget. What they NEED is a life coach to help them work out how to live this kind of lifestyle without resorting to consistently burdening others (specifically, me!). What they NEED is forethought in their decision making process. A flowchart of options that doesn't result in "ask the people across the road".

A few months ago, we had a series of escalating incidents that caused me to go all ragey about the squatters. They wanted water, then bread, then at 11pm they woke us up wanting a lift (which we refused because it was 11pm and they can walk the 2km to get there themselves). Then the next morning a lady wanted a lift to a location very close to the pub (which I refused because it's the pub and only 1km away). Then James lent them an air mattress and torch, he even pumped up the air mattress from them. It just got bigger and bigger until I couldn't take it anymore. The next time they came to the door I had this massive ragey, yelling, swearing rant at James for encouraging and enabling their behaviour towards us.

Since then, James has cut back for my sake. Their requests have stepped back. If they want bread and I answer the door, I tell them to go to the shops to buy it. James'll give them a slice. Last week they need oil for cooking, James gave them some in a little baggie and they were unhappy with the amount he gave them (more than double what we'd use for cooking a meal). And that brings me to today.

Today a lady came to my door with a small bag of meat. She wanted us to store it in our freezer and she'd pick it up later in the afternoon. Not unreasonable, surely? But after EVERYTHING they want from us, I'm just SO OVER IT! I'm over being taken advantage of. I'm over being their back up plan. So I said no. She tried to reason with me and I ended up repeating, "it's not my problem". Because, gosh damn it, IT'S NOT MY PROBLEM!! A lack of forethought on her part does not constitute an emergency on my part. Why didn't she just buy the meat in the afternoon? Did she seriously just then go to the shops to buy meat thinking "I'll ask the across-the-road-people to put it in their fridge"?? Because that's what it looks like right now.

But as I closed the door, I felt (and still do feel) really bad about refusing her. I JUST CAN'T WIN!! These aren't people you help and then feel good about afterwards. These aren't the typical homeless you find in metro areas because unlike metro-homeless, these squatters are traditional land owners and get heaps of money in royalties. These are people who have the option of a house and are choosing not to take it. Yet instead, they choose to live partially off ourJames' generosity. They don't need the kind of help that they're asking for. They need a different kind of help that involves being intimately involved with them and their situation, having their trust and working out life options. They need a careers guidance counselor, not a slice of bread. They have money they can use, they have legs to walk, so they can walk 2km to the shops and buy their own bread. But they would rather knock on our door for bread because we're free and closer. And they wouldn't be interested in accepting more substantial help. We're just Jekyll and Hyde from across the road (and they've learnt to specifically ask for James when I answer the door).

But when I said no to storing meat in the freezer, I just feel bad for denying her that easy request. It's just meat in my freezer. I have room for it! If I took the meat and put it in my freezer, I KNOW I would be very resentful about it. And I can't win! I can't help these people in a way that matters and whether I choose to help them or not, I feel bad about it for some complicated reason.

So that's my rant about the squatters. What would you do about it? (And I know the Bible on this topic, I really do. James and I have talked about this many times at length. I really think it's more complicated than just giving them the cloak on my back and sandals on my feet.)

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In response to your questions: No, I haven't tried getting to know them. But James has, and hasn't experienced much success. They aren't interested in a relationship. However, as he has made efforts, so they have made efforts to get more stuff out of us. It seems the more they know us/him, the more likely they are to come take advantage of us.

The thing is, Indigenous cultural is all about sharing. There isn't ownership as we westerners know it. If a family member is earning a wage, then the whole family is entitled to it. If someone owns a house, the entire family is entitled to stay there. And I mean the entire, extended family. This is both a beautiful way to care for each other, and a horrible means of exploitation. The Indigenous staff members at school find it rather grating that their family members come around once a fortnight to collect their share of the wage to spend it at the pub, when they've been working hard to earn that money. On the other hand, I've seen other families take care of many nieces and nephews whose parents cannot. It's really fantastic that those children get a stable home.

I appreciate the sentiment and your suggestions. But unless James (as the person who's most invested in the squatters) were to go over and explicitly confront them, then offer help, I don't think they want help. And inviting them to stay with us is SOOOOO NOT ever going to happen ever!! No no no no. No. I have a gif here that'll helpfully explain how I feel about that idea

So as James gets to know these squatters better, so they feel more entitled to ask us for things, it's just the way their culture is. The only thing I've personally found effective is nipping it in the bud. No, you cannot put your meat in my freezer, maybe you should have thought about that before you decided to live in the bush instead of with your family/buy your meat in the morning instead of the late afternoon. Or maybe she could have bought the meat frozen from the freezer section so it would thaw out during the day.

Sorry, I hadn't realised the cultural differences you were dealing with! Yeah, um, ouch? headdesk?

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