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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.
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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.

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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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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.

    Literature 
  • 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.

    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 a disused hotel, which doesn't count.
  • In Arrow, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Victorious: Cat slept in a secret room in the high school at one point due to troubles at home.

    Music 
  • 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).

    Podcasts 
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.

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