FOX13 INVESTIGATES: Home squatters can be challenging to evict

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you’ve ever noticed a house boarded up and abandoned, it may be due to home squatters.

They’re similar to what you may call a “homewrecker,” but in the literal sense.

James Lee Cathey told FOX13 he lived in Memphis for decades. It was his home and his community until he became a victim of home squatters.

“I lost $50,000 in the process,” said Cathey. “I estimate that the repairs would have been an additional $20,000.”

He said at that point in time, Memphis, Tennessee, was no longer home.

Cathey is not alone.

Since 2019, Memphis Police took 89 reports of squatters: people who moved into homes that did not belong to them. Multiple arrests and citations have happened since then.

Cathey said he eventually sold his house back in 2019 because the damage was too overwhelming for him to take care of.

“Back windows broken up, graffiti all over the wall, glass thrown all over the house,” said Cathey.

Even with all the damage done, Cathey said police let the suspects go. A police report showed multiple people had been in and out of the house while Cathey was trying to sell it. Memphis Police told FOX13 that each case is different and depends on the evidence.

It’s a process Cathey finds frustrating. He said he’s still frustrated about the incident to this day.

“There was a whole variety of things they could have been charged with,” said Cathey.

He recalled seeing the same suspects walking down his street 20 minutes after they were let go.

Memphis Police told FOX13 that these incidents need accurate evidence to stack up.

Another report from March 6 stated one home squatter had been held at gunpoint before the unknown suspect fled the address.

In 2019, Cathey moved to Oklahoma. It’s a decision he said he’s never regretted and said he’s not moving back to the city he once called home.

“The community and the people are just heavenly here,” said Cathey.

The City of Memphis told FOX13 there is a process they go through with Code Enforcement to figure out what can be done with these abandoned properties.

They said it may take months or years to figure out what to do, but they told FOX13 they would like to send Code Enforcement to the properties reporters visited to see what can be done about the used-to-be homes.