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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 free of charge? Well, if a character isn't too concerned with legality, they can! Airports, malls, hospitals, and more all have nooks and crannies which can provide a place to sleep. 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, goods, electricity and plumbing. The living standards range from similar to a regular home (if you sneak into a model home or unrented apartment) to poor (camping out in an empty storage space or closet). The downside is a lack of privacy, it's more likely that you'll be caught, and that once found out, they'll probably be evicted by security guards, but there's always somewhere else to move onto.

  • Living in an abandoned building: Living in an Abandoned Area, which is nicknamed "squatting", 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, the building may be dirty and decrepit (and possibly even dangerous), you may not be safe at night, since the locks are likely broken on doors and windows, you won't find fresh items for the taking, and utilities are probably shut down.

  • 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 fortifying doors and barricading windows these buildings also make a 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 
  • Aggretsuko:
    • Invoked when Tadano sees Retsuko's new apartment, which is above a convenience store, and jokingly acts as if she was living in the convenience store.
    • Season five features an internet cafe whose rooms are commonly used as low-income housing for the underemployed, including Haida. It's just barely better than outright homelessness, as most of the rooms and chairs can't be comfortably slept in, and job opportunities are severely limited without a permanent address.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • JoJolion: Outside of the winter months (due to it being in use then), Rai Mamezuku lives his days on a ski lift, doing as such for proximity to the mountain plants he studies. Going farther than merely living on a chair suspended above the sky, Rai has modified the various support beams of the structure to hide foldable rooms, ranging from necessities (such as a kitchen, a closet for his clothes, and a makeshift toilet) to even its own library and winery.
  • 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.
  • Madam & Eve: Played for laughs in this comic, when Eve rents out parts of household appliances (the ironing board, the top of the washer, etc.) for attendees of the 2010 World Cup.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Sing, Buster Moon sleeps in his office. Specifically, he sleeps in a desk drawer.

    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 Muppets Take Manhattan, the Muppets can't afford a hotel so they sleep in bus station lockers. By the end of the Failure Montage, Kermit says they'll need to find cheaper lockers.

  • 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.
  • In the first book of the Black Blade trilogy, Lila Sterling is squatting in the basement of the local library, moving out and living in a hotel the one week a year when the staff cleans out the basement while setting up for the annual fundraiser sale.
  • 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.
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake: Trace of Two Pasts: The area in Sector 8 that Tifa first moves to is called Container Row, being in fact just a bunch of containers that serve as makeshift homes.
  • 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.
  • In the first Red Dwarf novel, Lister is sleeping in a storage locker on Mimas, since he alternates between trying to save all his money to return to Earth, and spending it all on alcohol to blot out the fact he's stuck on Mimas. When he signs up for the Space Corps and a couple of cops arrive to escort him to the Dwarf, one of them thinks the listed address has to be a joke.
  • Oddly Enough: A decidedly odd example in "The Giant's Tooth". Edgar gets grabbed and eaten by a giant, but is rescued by Meagan, whom the giant tried to eat long ago. Somehow, she managed to find a hole in a spot in his mouth, and began chipping away at the side of one of his teeth to dig out a place where she could live safely. She helps Edgar do the same, and together they save other people whom he tries to eat, each of whom digs out a home inside another of his teeth (to the giant's obvious discomfort).

    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 laundry. 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 mentioned that Tom has barricaded himself inside a mall during a Zombie Apocalypse, having to put up with the unreasonable demands of his coworker (now a zombie who feels entitled to his head meats).

  • The second half of The Magnus Archives season 1 has Martin living in the Archives in an attempt to evade Jane Prentiss/the Flesh Hive.
  • 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 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: At Skopp City, one side-mission is about searching for a woman that was caught residing in several buildings before fleeing. When located, a choice is presented to either turn her over or give credits to grant her a fresh start.
  • 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.
  • Blue Reflection: Second Light: The girls all live in the school building found in their section of the Heartscape since because there aren't any other viable locations to choose from.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: In the mission "Roman's Sorrow", Roman Bellic tells his cousin Niko that he had slept under the desk of his cab depot office for over a year while saving for an apartment after said depot and apartment were torched by the Russians.
  • Many potential residences you can buy in the Pokémon Crystal ROM Hack Pokémon Crystal Clear are this.
    • The home in Violet City is built into a second floor of the school house.
    • Two residences in particular are essentially underground Hideouts that were formerly operated by Team Rocket (the Goldenrod Underground, and the Hideout beneath the Mahogany Town Bazaar).
    • Olivine City offers probably one of the most unique house locations... at the top of the lighthouse.
    • The room you can buy inside the Lavender Town Radio Tower is technically this, though downplayed since the security guard refers to it as a penthouse.
    • The unlockable Battle Tower location, since you are literally making a home out of a dilapidated building.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines:

    Web Animation 
  • Donkey Kong Island: In the episode "Evicted", after having had enough of Lanky and his brothers' behaviour and poor hygiene, Dixie decides to sleep in the Warehouse.

  • Castoff: Sage the totally-not-insane mage lives in the abandoned building that used to house a Wizarding School. There's labs, books and more space than he could ever need, and people generally avoid the area, which is a plus since he's hiding from the law.
  • 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.
  • Sluggy Freelance: The protagonists' home base for a time is a "functioning showroom" Torg serendipitously found in the middle of an otherwise normal Björkea Swedish furniture super store. It's hard for anyone to navigate to or from it because the color line that would guide shoppers through it is twisted into a Möbius strip.
  • In one arc of UnCONventional Awesome Roy and Maggie are found to be living in Bork Con's storage unit.
  • 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".

    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.
    • Zoidberg has also been shown taken up residence in The Professor's DNA cross species analyzer and zipped inside Leela's punching bag.
      Leela: You were living in my punching bag?
      Zoidberg: If you call that living.
  • 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.
  • Pet Alien: Tommy and the aliens live in a lighthouse that's been converted into a living space with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and basement. Tommy's bedroom is located where the light would normally be.
  • 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 living in storage sheds 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.
  • In Japan, the reading rooms of internet/manga cafés are used as unofficial shelters by homeless people.