Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 27, 2012

Squatter arrested for living in Palo Alto mansion

Not the first time police have found homeless living in houses under construction, sergeant says

by Sue Dremann

Palo Alto residents have something else to watch for besides burglars these days — squatters. And these individuals don't inhabit dilapidated structures. They're going for empty mansions in some of the city's toniest neighborhoods.

Police arrested Matthew Hicks, 38, for trespassing on Tuesday, April 24, after a resident thought he was burglarizing a Crescent Park home in the 500 block of East Crescent Drive between University Avenue and Southwood Drive, Sgt. Brian Philip said. The resident saw Hicks leave the property, which is under construction, at about 1:30 p.m., and police found him on Hamilton Avenue.

But Philip said that Hicks wasn't stealing from the home. He was living there. Police are coming upon more people who are taking up residence in vacant Palo Alto homes, he said.

"There are so many homes under construction. It does happen more often now," he said.

Squatters find the homes attractive because they are in safe, quiet neighborhoods and are frequently obscured by cloth-covered fencing. They set up residence in abandoned homes or ones that are being remodeled, he said.

Philip said the squatters don't destroy the house. They are just looking for shelter and a way to set up camp. They are most often detected when workers stumble upon their belongings.

"People are desperate for a place to stay," he said.

The squatters haven't set any fires in the homes, Philip said. But they will sometimes use the backyard to set up a kitchen.

"We had one on Northampton where the guy was barbecuing in the backyard," he said.

Palo Alto Fire Battalion Chief Chris Woodard said his department hasn't encountered many squatters. He said the problem is a big issue in larger cities, such as Detroit, and in some areas of Massachusetts.

Philip said neighbors should keep an eye on properties that are vacant or being remodeled. Some signs of squatters include lights or flashlights used in the house or shopping carts and bicycles sitting in the yard. Often the construction fencing has been pulled out and moved to gain entry, he said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields