They are in every city—vacant properties where weeds grow through cracks, boards cover doors and windows, repairs are neglected, maintenance is non-existent, and looting and squatting prevail. The whole neighbourhood slides downhill because of them.
That is where Dot Dot Dot comes in. They are a UK social enterprise whose mission is “to use vacant properties to generate social value.” They place volunteers in the properties as guardians who clean them up and care for them. While they remain vacant, the guardians live in them. They also do volunteer work in the neighbourhoods: gardening, clean-up, maintenance, whatever is needed to make the area safer and more attractive.
Katharine Hibbert came up with the idea for Dot Dot Dot when she was doing research for her first book, FREE: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Society. Hibbert had given up everything—job, home, belongings, credit card—to see if it was possible to live on the margins of society. With only a pack on her back, she set out to live off what others consider waste and discovered it was possible.
The book is her account of the experiment, which taught her all she needed to know to set up DotDotDot. Disturbed by all the empty houses that could be providing shelter for people unable to afford rent or mortgages, she hit on the idea of an organization that would provide guardians for the properties.
Among board and team members of Dot Dot Dot are people with expertise in property law, social housing and empty buildings. They see to the details that keep things running and connect property owners, guardians and the surrounding community.
In the first video below, some of the young people who have spruced up and moved into empty flats talk about their experiences. In the second, you meet some of the young volunteers offering assistance in a neighbourhood. Wandering around on the Dot Dot Dot Web and social media sites, I wonder why no one thought of this earlier. Dot Dot Dot gives me hope.