The housing crisis has hit a whole lot of people in places they didn't know they could get hurt -- home, mostly. Homelessness is a substantial problem in a lot of areas, with many young and old people being priced out of anything bigger than a shoebox. But while most people feel powerless as the system continues to kick them down, others have found quite surprising homes away from home. For example ...
Would you like to live in a sewer? The answer to that question varies from person to adolescent mutated reptile. But you shouldn't knock it until you've tried it. Just ask Miguel Restrepo and his wife, Maria Garcia. They've been doing it for decades, and couldn't be happier.
Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images
"We have absolutely no plans to attack anyone with penguins carrying little rockets!"
The couple lives in Medellin, Colombia -- or underneath it, to be more specific. After losing his job more than 20 years ago, Restrepo got tired of the rat race and decided to take himself, Maria, and their dog Negrita off the grid and into the sewers.
Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images
Where they found an entirely different rat race.
And ... it's quite nice. Not what you'd expect from a home on the wrong side of a manhole, Miguel and Maria's cowabunga pad is anything but gross. They've got it hooked up. It's got electricity, a kitchen, a TV, and furniture. "I live better than the president," Miguel boasts, "because here no one bothers me and I don't bother anyone."
Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images
And he's not only talking about the three Colombian presidents currently in jail for drug trafficking.
Southern California has one of the worst housing problems in the United States, with rents and house prices going through the roof faster than people can build roofs. Even zoo animals have more space than the average SoCal tenant. That's exactly what Robert Downs figured, so he set up camp deep inside Tujunga Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary.
Over the course of almost a year, Downs built a modest cabin inside the park. Board by board, he brought materials from a home repair store to his secret location and started putting together a lavish hut complete with bunk beds, tables, and shelves. The exterior, meanwhile, was covered in local fauna and a camouflage tarp, complete with a rock patio, outdoor barbecue, and several fire extinguishers placed for safety. If wasn't for the whole "trespassing on federal property" thing, this would have made for a great Airbnb listing.
LA County Sherrif's Office
"Check-in flexible. Some bears."
After living in the reserve successfully for nearly a year, Downs was finally found out. The cops arrested him for chopping down trees and, of course, having a small marijuana garden. For the terrible crime of growing plants and living in nature, the state of California set Downs' bail at $30,000 -- the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in Silverlake.
It's a true testament to New York's metropolitan greatness that so many people are vying to live in a city that's basically one big open sewer. So with high rent prices and small living conditions, it's not that crazy that some have traded their expensive apartment studios for a free hole in the ground.
Meet Carlos, one of many underground dwellers emulating everybody's favorite New Yorkers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Carlos lives in the tunnels underneath the New York train system. His humble abode is not that hard to find; you just have to get rid of your privileged notion that doors need to be upright.
Full Frontal Fashion
Carlos pops out of his hole to give friendly greetings. He also quickly shares that he's a devout Christian who's prepared for the end of days -- which makes sense, given that he lives in a fortified foxhole.
Full Frontal Fashion
"You know who else popped back out of a hole? Jesus."
But living in a glorified sewer drain doesn't mean you can't live in style. Carlos sure has a nice setup down here. Because of its convenient proximity to a train station (only a quick climb!) and its electric grid, he has all the free power he needs for his coffee maker, cooking station, and fully stocked fridge. Heck, it looks like he might even have in-unit laundry, which is something most New Yorkers can't get without selling a few organs.
Full Frontal Fashion
"The organ shop is two tunnels west."
Originally, Carlos says he didn't like the place because it was too dirty (abandoned railway tunnels are usually fixer-uppers). However, after he cleaned it up and gave the metal walls a lick of paint, he seems happy with the arrangement. And while the trains constantly whooshing over his head might be bad for the resale value, Carlos has no intention of leaving anyway. After all, he has a hole he can call his own, and in New York, that makes you part of the 1 percent.
LA boasts some of the hottest (literally) real estate today, which is bound to happen when you live within driving distance of thousands of beautiful millionaires. Unfortunately, it's left the area with major problems with both homelessness and traffic. Ceola Waddell Jr., however, has managed to turn both those problems into one awesome solution.
Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
No, not Hobo Hit and Run. Why would you even suggest that?
That's Waddell sitting on furniture that wouldn't look out of place in your aunt's sexy divorcee pad, but he's turned it into a spacious living room under the 110 highway. It's so spacious, in fact, that he's even got a tenant "renting" space from him for $25 a week -- a budget even all those aspiring DJs could live on. Here's the lavish video tour, Cribs-style:
Waddell finds his sub-traffic abode so lovely that he proudly states he doesn't think of himself as a homeless man. We agree. However, the city of Los Angeles doesn't. Preferring, as always, that their public infrastructure remain as inefficient as possible, authorities tear down his setup all too often. But Waddel simply builds it all right back up with more things he's scavenged. To the city, it's a really flashy pile of garbage, but to Waddell, it's not just a hobo penthouse -- it's home.
Walking through an IKEA, you could easily mistake it for your freshman dormitory with all the walls taken off. It's a huge, desolate warehouse with a nigh-endless supply of inexpensive beds, throw pillows, and Swedish meatballs. Forget the mall; if a zombie apocalypse were to ever happen, an IKEA could house and support a small village. But better hurry up, because there's already a queue.
Losing a kid in a mall is one thing, but lose one in an IKEA and you have about a 50-50 chance of it becoming one of the Lost Boys. Take little Peng Yijian, a 12-year-old boy who got into a fight with his mom one day over math homework. When he ran away, he went to IKEA, which to a child must seem like a refugee camp for beds and couches. He managed to hold out for six days before anyone noticed he wasn't one of the other hundred children left to roam free as their parents had a quiet fight over which color of VILME would go best with the living room carpet.
And if Peng got a little bit older, he could have joined the ranks of teenagers who are having the world's dumbest sleepovers in IKEAs.
These idiots, who haven't yet grasped the concept of private property or security cameras, have an irrational love of sleeping in worn IKEA beds, which we suppose will serve them well in their early 20s. They sneak into the store, hide themselves at closing time, and stay the night. IKEA sleepovers have become such an issue that the store has had to speak out and ask people to please stop. C'mon, kids, IKEA beds are like $40. Skip the B&E and buy one.
If there are two things Americans care less about with each coming day, it's meaningful art and malls. But don't tell that to Michael Townsend and Adriana Yoto. They're an artistic couple who, in true hipster fashion, were so over their local Rhode Island mall that they decided to live there. Ironically.
The couple wasn't very happy when a big, bloated mall popped up in Providence back in 1998. They knew they had to protest it somehow, but the question was how. Anyone can picket a new business, but picketing a multiple-mile-wide one is exhausting. They had to do something different, and when they discovered a 750-square-foot area left abandoned by construction workers, they had it figured out. They'd live at the mall. What a statement!
And live they did.
They moved right in, but with a purpose. Yoto, an academic who had written several papers on malls during her university days, was intent on studying them. Why do people go to malls? Who goes to malls? What are they doing there? Why go to a giant mall when you only need to buy one thing from one store? What's the point of it all? With that kind of freshman talk, it's probably not a coincidence they furnished their new abode with generic furniture, a small TV, a PlayStation, and everything else you'd find in a dorm.
There's an entire pallet of ramen out of frame.
For about four years, they lived in the mall, hoping to somehow crack capitalism. It was originally a minimalist effort. They'd keep quiet during off hours, hoping to evade capture, would use the bathrooms to clean up, and hung out in bookstores all day. That got boring after a few days, so naturally they kept stepping it up. They even held their wedding there. That'll show commercialism.
Naturally, the mall was livid. Townsend and Yoto had been uploading "secrets" of the mall, including maps and photos, to their blog, which began to show up when people googled the mall's name. Security knew right where to find them, naturally, and they were promptly banned. It's unclear how Yoto and Townsend are adjusting to life on the outside. Eating Cinnabon for years can change a person.
Have you ever tried living under a bridge? Sure, it might not seem ideal at first, but maybe those trolls are onto something. Maybe it's a matter of finding the right bridge. Like this one in France:
We always knew France was full of trolls.
Meet "James," who has lived in the Pont Louis Philippe Bridge for almost 30 years. No, not just under it, in it. It's got a door and everything.
That's quite an entrance! James originally found the spot in 1989 after serving in the French Foreign Legion. His best guess is that the 50-square-meter space (over 500 sq. ft) used to be for construction storage, but since then, he has put it to much better use.
Over the 20-odd years he has lived there, James has made his bridge-adjacent dwelling nice and cozy. He's got a bed to sleep on, a kitchen for entertaining guests, and all he has to do is open his front door for stunning waterfront views. The only thing he seems to be lacking is running water, but hey, he lives next to a river. He'll be fine. James doesn't even have to worry about being evicted. He's been classified as a "tolerated squatter" at this point, and he seems to be doing fine with it. The mayor of Paris has even dropped by to visit him. And to rub it in, here's James's rent-free Parisian view:
But the cat dumpster by your own window is cool too, in its own way.
Isaac will likely never own a home. Follow him on Twitter anyways.
This shag rug goes great in any bachelor pad. Even one under a highway in Los Angeles.
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