National Squatters Hotel

Hotel Squatters

Katrina Freeloaders

By Daniel Muniz

According to a GAO (Government Accountability Office) report, nearly 16 percent of the billions of dollars spent on the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were fraudulently wasted. Although the amount of federal money that was scammed totals near 1.4 billion dollars, that figure doesn’t take into account all the other organizations and businesses that were also adversely affected by various rip-off and shenanigans.

Because of the hurricanes and massive displacement practically every city and state government opened their wallets far and wide to help people impacted by this tragedy. And not surprisingly, lots of unscrupulous individuals shamelessly took full advantage of this generosity.

During January of 2006, FEMA underwrote the cost of placing over 300 Hurricane Katrina evacuees in hotels around New York City. Months later, nearly all of them left to pursue jobs or a new life. However, a handful of the evacuees insisted on bilking the government and private businesses for as much as they legally could.

So when FEMA stopped footing the bill for the hotel rooms of over 40,000 evacuees nationwide, which already ballooned to a staggering cost of more than half a billion dollars, that action did not stop Theon Johnson at all. He didn’t want to leave his hotel room, especially since he wasn’t paying for it and because of New York City’s generous squatters’ rights laws, he didn’t have to. In fact, it would have to take a court order from a judge to force Johnson to leave his double bed room at the JFK Airport Holiday Inn because he had been living in it for over 30 days.

And from Johnson’s point of view, why should he leave? He doesn’t have to work and he can watch television all day and all night long. And he even has a social worker that regularly visits him.

When interviewed by New York Magazine, he was in the middle of AMC’s “Thrill Me” marathon where he confessed his fascination with actress Halle Berry. And he is able to watch any other movie on television for however long he wants to.

Johnson’s hookup to the public dole began when FEMA flew him for free to New York City. They eventually put him up in the hotel room that he has refused to vacate. And the government also gave him $9,000 so that he could find new housing to start life anew. Instead, he spent it all on alcohol and partying. In fact, he brazenly claims:

“I spent my money just the way I wanted, and I think [FEMA] should send me some more…”

Source: New York Magazine

Instead, FEMA offered to send him back to New Orleans for free but he refused. (Author’s note: I hate using the word “free” because what it really means is at taxpayer’s expense. Nothing is really “free” because somebody’s paying for it)

But not having employment or any source of income still doesn’t deter this human sponge. Every week, Theon and another Katrina freeloader visit a church for canned goods. And only when the situation becomes absolutely desperate, does he go out on the streets to beg for money. After all, that is really beneath him since the government has already given him all these thousands of dollars and a nice clean hotel room that the homeless would envy.

In addition, his caseworker also gives him bus passes and a little bit of money but she has now keenly observed:

“They sit around on their butts watching TV. There’s only but so much I can do if they’re not willing to help themselves.”

Suppose the Holiday Inn decided to play a little bit of hard ball. Not necessarily lock him out of his room but only allow him to solely enjoy a room. That is, take away both of his beds, furniture, and his beloved television set. After all, the carpet of a temperature controlled room is definitely a better arrangement than of the vagabonds who sleep on park benches.

Unfortunately, the city’s poverty warriors are keeping close tabs on Johnson. Not that they actually care about his well-being but rather they are more interested in what they can exploit out of the city and from a big corporation.

As a result, the Legal Aid Society has been instrumental in allowing this human parasite to retain his hotel room indefinitely. If the hotel chain treats him harshly in any form or fashion, the poverty warriors will be all over it lawsuits. The same goes for the city. Forget about truth and justice, poverty warriors don’t care about that. In fact, they don’t see it as Johnson victimizing FEMA or the Holiday Inn but the other way around. They see Johnson as the victim and it is our government and a private business that are victimizing him.

Incidentally, the Legal Aid Society is negotiating with the Holiday Inn to give Johnson a $1,200 cash payout as a settlement (as if it is the faulted of the hotel). And Johnson doesn’t mind that all. According to New York Magazine:

He says he’ll use the money to get a room for a few nights and have some fun before flying back to his little house in New Orleans’ Third Ward. But for now, Gothika’s on. “Halle Berry,” Johnson says. “Halle . . . Berry.”

First of all, taxpayers should be outraged by the actions of this lowly slacker. His behavior is shameful and reprehensible. Johnson may be homeless but he is no longer a victim but a victimizer and he be treated as such instead of being showered with prolonged gratitude. He has already been given the benefit of the doubt and he abused it.

In addition, New York City as well as other metropolitan areas ought to reform their squatter laws so that private businesses are not penalized by scams like this. Freeloaders should not be shield by local laws that allow them to scam local businesses and the government. Instead they should be out on the streets or thrown in jail for fraud.

And the federal government itself should also be held accountable too prevent leeches like Johnson who want to become permanently attached to the public dole. Aid should be limited and temporary with plenty of provisions attached to it so that these parasites are unable to take advantage of governmental assistance.

But most importantly, the public in general ought to be outraged at poverty warriors like the Legal Aid Society and others like them. They are in no way out to help the downtrodden but instead, are looking for ways to bilk the system and to fatten their own budgets. There is nothing honorable in what they are doing in their efforts to help this human sponge defraud the government and a private business.

There are plenty of people in this country who need a helping hand and such assistance ought to be provided. But that being said, anyone who is exploiting the system and the taxpayer ought to be denied any such benefits. And if the fraud is serious enough, then such miscreants ought to be penalized by our own legal system.