My friend Joe is homeless again.
He’s tucked away on an unused patch of land in the heart of Whitstable, behind a fence, invisible to all but his immediate neighbours.
He’s living in a tent made of bamboo draped with tarpaulin.
He has all his worldly possessions in there: books and a bed, clothes, two camping stoves, kitchen equipment, a bucket full of water as a fridge, and a computer.
Yes, that’s right: he’s got a computer in there.
One of his neighbours, a friend, has provided him with a mains hook up. He’s writing a book.
People who were brought up in Whitstable will know who I’m talking about. He’s a well known character in the town, called Cosmic Joe by his friends.
He’s a working astrologer as well as a writer of strange and fantastical literature, involving ley lines, geomancy, numerology and Anglo-Saxon place names, amongst other arcane and interesting notions, and he often ends up in these precarious situations, eking out a weird existence on the margins of the known world.
In another age people would have considered him a shaman or a sage and venerated him for his knowledge.
As it is, he keeps being visited by a couple of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who – by continually calling on him, and entering his space uninvited – are causing him distress.
PCSOs, in case you don’t know, are people who look like police officers, but who aren’t.
They don’t have the powers of a police officer. Their job is to patrol the beat and to interact with the public, not much more.
So, for their information, as well as yours, I’d like to clarify the law on squatting land.
Until Joe is handed a court order by the owner of the land, asking him to leave, that ramshackle tent is his home, and he is entitled to enjoy it free from harassment or interference.
He has all the rights of a tenant and no one can enter his home without either the authorisation of a court of law, or an invitation by Joe himself.
Just because he’s homeless, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be treated with respect.