A Homeless Silicon Valley Carpenter Built Himself This Amazing Treetop Retreat

This story is a part of Business Insider’s “
Homeless In Silicon Valley” series reported by Robert Johnson and edited by Chris C. Anderson. Jill Klausen and graphic designer Mike Nudelman contributed to this series.

Troy The Jungle 3Robert Johnson for Business InsiderThis is Troy’s treehouse in The Jungle.

Walking the 65-acre homeless encampment called “The Jungle” in Silicon Valley with an outreach team of former homeless workers opens up a lot of doors — but not Troy’s.
Troy was reclined in a folding chair behind a green five-foot privacy screen when Business Insider met him in mid-July. He agreed to speak with us, but declined to let us into his camp.

The outreach team asked Troy if he was interested in putting his name on the list for subsidized housing and he shook his head. “Nah,” he said, “This is the first time I haven’t had a mortgage in my life. I’m good.”

Troy explained he’d lost his carpentry job nearly four years ago and finally settled here. His carpentry skills explained the elaborate fencing, shower and makeshift hut with a hinged door standing behind him.

We weren’t talking long when Troy said he’d had enough and told us to check out his treehouse 30-feet up in a tree behind us. “Climb it,” he said laughing. When we didn’t reply, he continued: “It’s there to stay. I’m a carpenter for Christ’s Sake.”

The Jungle in San Jose is filled with elaborate shelters and camps, but Troy's compound was unlike anything else around.

Following the path and reading the screen, it was clear Troy had suffered some trespassers and was doing all he could to enforce some personal security.

The farther we walked the more instructions there were. The police had swept the camp four months before so everything here had been built since then.

Stopping at the closed gate we exchanged hellos with Troy and he agreed to talk with us.

He was relaxing after a long night, he said. He'd evicted two people from his compound and said they'd trashed the place on their way out.

'It was worth it,' he said. It's not uncommon in The Jungle for people to share camps for protection and security against theft.

Troy explained he'd lost his construction job four years ago and moved into The Jungle not long afterward. His neighbours were bothersome but worth it for the freedom living outside allowed him.

Without a mortgage for the first time in his life, Troy said he was content. He spends his time on small carpentry projects and is not interested in moving.

When he'd finished answering questions Troy told us about his most prized project, this treehouse.

A sense of ownership after losing a lifetime's worth of things is almost universal in The Jungle.

Since the built-in ladder was securely attached, we climbed up to have a look around.

From above it was hard to believe that up to 175 people could be living here.

Troy wasn't the only person we met who didn't want to leave The Jungle ...

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