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Non-Residential Residence

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I've heard of reading before bed but this is ridiculous.
Gumball: Oh, why is there always a law against everything I wanna do?
Anais: Because the last thing you wanted to do was move into the supermarket so you could eat for free.
Gumball: Uh, if the food enters your body and exits it while it's still in the supermarket, it's technically not stealing.

Living in a Cool House is awesome. It keeps you out of the weather, keeps you safe from crime, and gives you a place to store your stuff. The problem is, decent houses and apartments are expensive. Sure, you could go cheap, but wouldn't it be nice to live somewhere with all the amenities of a good home, free of charge? Well, if a character isn't too concerned with legality, they can! Airports, malls, hospitals, and more can all provide perfectly sufficient housing. This trope comes in three flavors:

  • Living in an active building: Not only does living in an active establishment save money, it can provide benefits like easy access to "free" food and goods. The downside is a lack of privacy and that once found out, they'll probably be evicted, but there's always somewhere else to move.

  • Living in an abandoned building: Living in an abandoned area has an advantage in that you're much less likely to be found, and you can maintain a level of privacy. On the other hand, you won't find fresh items for the taking, and utilities may be shut down.

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  • Living in an abandoned building After the End: If moving in After the End, legality is no longer a concern, and services like power are most likely down everywhere anyway. With a little work, these buildings also make a great personal fortress against The Legions of Hell, zombies, or plain human Disaster Scavengers.

This trope can also apply to living in something that's not a building at all, like a boxcar, doghouse, or dumpster. These usually provide little more than (poor) shelter from the elements, and a character who lives in these is either out of options or has no standards whatsoever. Alternatively, it may be Played for Laughs, such as having all the amenites of an actual home (possibly by being Bigger on the Inside), or having characters treat it as an ordinary house, except perhaps the Only Sane Man.


This trope is Truth in Television, with some people living for years in these places. Compare "Stuck at the Airport" Plot, Houseboat Hero, House Squatting, and Lives in a Van for other tropes about people living in unusual places. This sometimes overlaps with Bad Bedroom, Bad Life. See also Not-So-Abandoned Building. Despite the name, Living in a Furniture Store is not a subtrope.


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  • In the Progressive ad series "At Home with Baker Mayfield" , Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and his wife Emily live in FirstEnergy Stadium as if it were an ordinary home, to the bemusement of visitors and staff.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In ERASED, Satou has Kayo live on an abandoned school bus for a few days to protect her from her abusive mother.
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka lives in a space at the top of the roof access stairway of Holy Forest Academy.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: In Diamond is Unbreakable, Toyohiro Kanedaichi lives inside of an abandoned radio transmission tower against his will, as part of the ability of his Stand, Super Fly. The tower is remarkably well-suited for living, having amenities such as a stove, a living area with futon and table, and even electricity, as well as constant sources of food provided by fishing in a nearby river and a garden which is fertilized by... well, his own leavings.
  • School-Live! follows a group of high school girls who live at their school. The exact reasons for them living there form the hook for the show.

    Comic Books 
  • The graphic novel Lucky Penny is about this trope. The main character moves into her ex-roommate's storage unit after she loses her job and her roommate moves out.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert: Dilbert's Disappeared Dad has been living inside of the local mall since December of 1992 (turning into a kind of shaman-like Urban Legend amongst the people who go there) and has no plan of leaving any time soon (if ever) because one of the restaurants has an "all you can eat" buffet and Dilbert's Dad absolutely has not eaten "all he could eat" just yet.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Blade Runner, J.F. Sebastian lives in the Bradbury Building, long abandoned and forgotten by future society. It's just one of the many things used to contrast Sebastian with Eldon Tyrell, who lives in the modern and temple-like Tyrell headquarters. It's also the site of the film's climax, as Deckard and Roy hunt one another down in the other parts of the building that are in even further disrepair.
    • In the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, An older Deckard has the entirety of Las Vegas at his disposal after it was abandoned following a dirty bombing. In practical terms, it means he lives in the upper floors of a hotel, and uses a barroom as his living space.
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978): Much of the movie has the main characters living in a shopping mall, until a biker gang breaks down their defenses, letting in the zombies.
  • Where the Heart Is: Novalee lives in a Walmart for some time after being left there by her boyfriend, and even delivers her baby there.
  • In Hugo, the orphaned protagonist lives in the clock tower at a railway station.
  • The Terminal is about a man who is forced to live in the JFK International Airport after his home country suffered a coup, rendering his passport invalid.
  • In the made-for-TV movie The Greatest Store In The World, single mother Geraldine and her two daughters lose their home to a gas explosion, so they decide to live inside a tent... which happens to be inside the camping department at Scotley's department store.
  • In Knight and Day, Roy hides Simon in the storage unit as a hideout. When the bad guys find out where Simon was hiding, he escapes and leaves a clue behind for Roy to his next hideout.
  • In Shoot 'em Up, Mr. Smith lives in an abandoned tenement, which naturally becomes the scene of one of the movie's many gunfights. Later, he stashes his love interest and the baby they're protecting inside a tank in a war museum, to make absolutely sure they'll be safe from the army of thugs coming after them.

  • In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Sam and Joe's boss sleeps in his office in order to avoid going home to his wife and kids.
  • The Boxcar Children start the series living in a boxcar.
  • In the Dirk Pitt Adventures books, Dirk Pitt lives in an abandoned aircraft hangar. He collects classic cars, and the hangar was the only place he could find that he could afford which also had enough square footage to house his collection.
  • The Girl Who Owned a City: Kids set up residence in a school.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: The protagonists live in the Metropolitan Museum in New York for most of the book, hiding and dodging guards.
  • In The Prince Of Kelvin Mall by Michael Stephens, the protagonist lives in the mall designed and built by his Disappeared Dad.
  • In The Raven Cycle, Gansey makes a home for himself in an abandoned factory building.
  • In The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado Of Death, there's Custerville, a Hobo jungle where the entire neighborhood is made of people living in abandoned train cars.
  • In The Thief Lord, Prosper, Bo, Hornet, Riccio, and Mosca all live inside an old cinema.
  • In the Herman Melville short story Bartleby the Scrivener, the narrator visits his office on a Sunday and is dismayed to discover that one of his staff, Bartleby, has begun living there.
  • Harry Dresden in The Dresden Files actually keeps a storage unit specifically for if he has to go into hiding, as revealed in Turn Coat, when he keeps Morgan inside one.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: Georgia's friend Charles Peyton secretly does this - he typically lives in unused classrooms or offices at whatever college where he's working at the time, keeping it secret from his employers because he'd be fired and probably blackballed if they ever found out about his squatting. When she's explaining it to her then-boyfriend, Georgia tells him that Charles prefers to dress like a gentleman, but at his typical salary, he couldn't afford both the clothes and a legal residence, and he'd always pick the former over the latter.
  • The backstory of Constance Contraire from the The Mysterious Benedict Society books, she flees from an orphanage before she can be taken away from it by dangerous individuals known as the Ten Men. She then takes a bus to a public library as far away from there as the lines go and discovers an unlocked storage room with a stack of dusty boxes labeled "To be processed when funding is approved" that look like they haven't been touched in years. She then spends months hiding there, sleeping there at night and having the run of the library. By day she comes out rarely, only coming out when the library is busy, so that any casual observers assume that she's with someone, i.e., "the young woman over in nonfiction might be her mother." She survives on snacks scavenged from the library breakroom, but is careful never to take too much, both out of fear of being noticed and as a kindness to the staff. When they start leaving mousetraps, she springs the traps and eats the cheese. She also manages to find the key to the vending machine, but again is careful not to take too much. This continues for several months before she finally leaves in response to Mr. Benedict's ad - "Are you a gifted child seeking special opportunities?"
  • The Berenstain Bears: In the Big Chapter Book ...and the Giddy Grandma, after Gran starts practicing her incredibly noisy "One-Bear Band" act (playing several instruments at once, while on roller skates) in the attic, Gramps moves out of his house and into his tool shed for a few days.
  • In Another Note, Beyond Birthday lives in an abandoned factory, which he either bought or rented by pretending to be a business that was no longer in business, using money stolen from random people's bank accounts. Why B didn't just use a fraudulent identity to get a lease on a regular cheap apartment is never explained.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first season of Angel, Angel lives in his office. After it is destroyed by a bomb attack in the season's final episode, he moves into the disused Hyperion hotel.
  • Arrow
    • In the pilot episode, Oliver Queen constructs what will later be known as the Arrowcave in the basement of the abandoned Queen Consolidated factory. Later he has the factory renovated so he can build a nightclub on top of it, to explain why he keeps going there. Incidentally one problem of this approach is shown in Season Two when an enemy of the Arrow acquires the property and has it shut down, forcing Team Arrow to move to a reserve Arrowcave they have established on a Missing Floor of the Palmer Technologies building. In Season 4, they just buy the office of a previous Villain with Good Publicity and use the Supervillain Lair he had hidden beneath it.
    • During Season Two, Sara Lance lived at the top of a clock tower out of fear that returning to her family would endanger their lives, since the League of Assassins kept sending members to retrieve her.
  • Black Books: In one episode, after falling out with Bernard and being fired from the titular bookshop, Manny accepts a job with rival bookstore Goliath Books and sleeps on the cashier's desk in a sleeping bag.
  • The Brittas Empire: A key element of Carole’s character is that not only does she sleep in and live in a room in the leisure centre, but that she raises her children in the cupboards and drawers behind the reception desk.
  • In Crashing, the characters reside in a large disused hospital in London. They have some sort of legal agreement with its owners and have to obey a strict set of rules (like having no visitors or no parties; not that they truly follow those). They are considered property guardians who keep the building safe in exchange for cheap rent.
  • CSI: NY: The Cabbie Killer from season 4 is eventually found to be living in an abandoned firehouse.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Eve of the Daleks", amongst the many, many rules of the self-storage facility that Unseen Character Jeff is breaking, is one container done up like a flat, where it's speculated he may actually live.
  • In The Flash:
    • During the months where Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein had fused together so they were Sharing a Body (with Martin controlling Ronnie's body) they lived under a bridge eating garbage. Martin had previously tried to return to his home, but looking like someone else his wife tried to call the police on him so he was forced to flee.
    • In Season Three, during the Bad Future that occurs after Iris is killed, future Barry is shown to be living in the abandoned STAR Labs hanging out in the Time Vault while endlessly gazing at a photo of his dead fiancée.
  • In Forever Knight, Nick's loft was a converted warehouse. The building actually exists in Real Life Toronto.
  • In the first season of Halt and Catch Fire, both Cameron and Bos are secretly living at the Cardiff Electric offices, the former because she's homeless and doesn't have the money for an apartment, and the latter because he's a workaholic who's avoiding his family.
  • House of Anubis: One episode involves the Anubis House students having to sleep in the school's lounge due to a pest problem at the House; this was part of a plan by Victor in order for him to easily search for and steal the puzzle pieces Sibuna were hiding.
  • In the Malcolm in the Middle episode "Butterflies", Malcolm finds a man is living in the Lucky Aide. He lets him stay in return for information on an employee he has a crush on.
  • Married... with Children: In You Better Shop Around Part 1, Al moves his family into the local supermarket when their air conditioner breaks down during a hot summer.
  • My Name Is Earl: In the episode Y2K, the gang lives in Bargain Bag for a day when they believe the Millennium Bug has caused the apocalypse and they're the only survivors (The rest of the town is actually just out celebrating New Year's Day).
  • Supernatural:
    • In early seasons, Dean and Sam live out of their car when they aren't staying in cheap motels.
    • Starting in mid-season 8, Sam and Dean live in an old Men of Letters bunker when they aren't on the road, which has an occult library, a kitchen, a garage, a dungeon and communal bathrooms. There's also enough bedrooms that Dean, Sam, Castiel and later Jack can all have their own room.
  • In Scrubs: Elliot tries sleeping in the on-call room after losing her apartment due to being cut off by her father. Dr Kelso kicks her out swiftly.
  • Riverdale: Jughead briefly lives in the projection booth of a drive-in theater.
  • Sesame Street has Oscar the Grouch living in a trash can.
  • In the New Zealand post-apocalyptic series The Tribe, the main tribe of characters (appropriately named "The Mall Rats") live in an abandoned mall in the aftermath of a virus that's Only Fatal to Adults. Other tribes live in a hotel, a warehouse, a school...but no one ever seems to live in houses or apartments.
    • Also everyone wants that specific mall. It's invaded at least four times over the five seasons.
  • Victorious: Cat slept in a secret room in the high school at one point due to troubles at home.
  • In Riget, it turns out Dr. Krogshøj doesn't actually own a home; instead he lives in a quartered off storage space at the titular hospital, and lives off of surplus food and cutlery he has smuggled out from from the hospital cafeteria, while his clothes and linens are acquired entirely from the hospital. While this is strictly speaking not legal, he gets away it with due to having "a special agreement" with the senior hospital staff (i.e. he both has quite a bit of Blackmail material on most of them and is also their Friend in the Black Market).

  • In the Jonathan Coulton song "Re: Your Brains", it's implied that Tom has barricaded himself inside the office he worked in during the Zombie Apocalypse, having to put up with the unreasonable demands of his coworker (now a zombie who feels entitled to his head meats).

  • One of RPPR Actual Play's Red Markets campaigns is based out of an Enclave built in a mall called "Grapevine". The derelict cars in the parking lot have been assembled into a makeshift wall to keep zombies out and those who can't afford the rent on one of the ex-stores live in tents out in the emptied lot.

    Video Games 
  • Arcanum: If you strike up a conversation with the half-ogre Ogdin Bigfist and ask him to tell you about himself, he'll tell you that one of his earliest memories is of being kept as a slave in a printing works and having to sleep beneath one of the desks.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines:

    Web Comics 
  • Ennui GO!:
    • Smegli, an ugly, strange hermit with a chin shaped like testicles, lived in a superstore for a long while before meeting Izzy and her friends while they were trapped in said store. He eventually moves in with her after they got free.
    • Child-hating Sadist Teacher Mrs. Cruddletwat was revealed to not even be a teacher at all. She was simply an insane squatter who lived in Max's school for an undetermined amount of time and pretended to be a teacher to torture the students, with no one (not even the faculty) being the wiser. Once revealed, she was promptly arrested by Key Manati's police.
  • Unshelved: In one story arc, the hobo Lambert sets up residence in the crawlspace between the library's roof and ceiling. When Mel points out that the ceiling isn't strong enough to support the weight of a person, Lambert says that the library's collection of books on woodworking came in very handy for reinforcing his "floor".
  • In one arc of UnCONventional Awesome Roy and Maggie are found to be living in Bork Con's storage unit.

    Western Animation 
  • Like the comic strip above, an episode of Dilbert shows Dilbert's Disappeared Dad has been living inside of the local mall for almost a decade now (turning into a kind of shaman-like Urban Legend amongst the people who go there) and has no plan of leaving any time soon (if ever) because one of the restaurants has an "all you can eat" buffet and Dilbert's Dad absolutely has not eaten "all he could eat" just yet.
  • In Futurama, Zoidberg lives in a dumpster.
  • Gargoyles: For the first two seasons the Manhattan Clan lives in a clock tower above the police station where Elisa works.
  • King of the Hill:
    • In one episode, Dale discovers that Chuck Mangione has secretly moved into the local Megalo-Mart.
    • In "Bill Gathers Moss", Principal Moss is shown living in his office at the school after his wife kicked him out.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: During the one night that she's staying in the human world (she comes one day, stays overnight, and returns to Equestria the following evening), Twilight turns Canterlot High School's library into a temporary bedroom. Averted in the second movie, where she stays at Pinkie Pie's house instead.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Natural Born Kissers", Homer and Marge steal a hot air balloon that was being used to advertise a car dealership. As the balloon flies away, Gil the unlucky car salesman shouts "They took the balloon! I've been living in there!"
    • Bart's treehouse has been used as a living space at least twice; in "Secrets of a Successful Marriage", Homer lives there after being kicked out by Marge, and in "Bart Carny" the whole family lives there after Cooder and Spud locked them out of their house.
    • In "Day of the Jackanapes", Sideshow Bob is released from prison, and starts living in the storage unit his things were kept in while plotting revenge on Bart and Krusty. It turns out the whole place is full of others doing the same—including the revenge part.
      Sideshow Bob: Thank you Raphael. Now, this is a ticklish question, but...
      Raphael: You want to live in the box? Cost you two bucks a day.
      Sideshow Bob: Oh, thank you, kind innkeeper.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "New Digs" has Spongebob move into the Krusty Krab after arriving to work a minute late, much to the annoyance of Mr. Krabs. Immediately after Spongebob moves out, Squidward moves in.
  • Steven Universe: Peridot and Lapis spend the third and fourth season living in a barn.
  • The StoryCorps POV episode "Temple of Knowledge" talks about the life of a real person named Ronald Clark. He is the son of a library custodian who lived in the library he cleaned, so Ronald had unrestricted access to books all the time.

    Real Life 
  • People have tried this in real life - with varying levels of success. It's become common enough that people in the industry have experienced what they call live-in renters.
  • Tokyo Lens recorded a short feature about Yohei Aoki, a man who moved into an abandoned elementary school in the mountainous region of Tokushima. The classrooms now serve as a cafe, library, and local meeting place, while Aoki lives in the former Principal's office and Teacher's Lounge.