By Amy Julia Harris.
Almost 30 squatters have overrun Richmond, California’s notorious Hacienda public housing project, a squalid building that used to house dozens of poor seniors and disabled people.
After the city declared the building uninhabitable and evacuated the last of the residents three months ago, homeless people broke into the empty apartments – and stayed.
Tahira Mitchell was among the first to move in. She was living on the streets when a friend suggested she could crash at Hacienda, she said. Armed with a screwdriver, Mitchell, 42, slipped through the front gate and pried her way into an apartment on the fourth floor.
She found everything she needed: a futon, functioning appliances, electricity and running water.
“You can’t blame us for coming here,” Mitchell said. “For the most part, Richmond don’t have nothing for the homeless. I just needed a place to stay.”