Let This Florida Woman Keep Her Goddamn Treehouse

Shawnee Chasser, left, and daughter Wren Levy share a laugh while posing in a bedroom in Chasser’s treehouse Sunday, Aug. 5, 2007, in Miami. Photo via AP.
Shawnee Chasser, left, and daughter Wren Levy share a laugh while posing in a bedroom in Chasser’s treehouse Sunday, Aug. 5, 2007, in Miami. Photo via AP.

A Florida woman who’s lived in a treehouse for many years is being told to take her home down or risk legal action. Shawnee Chasser, 65, says she’s not budging. “All I know is I’m not taking my treehouse down,” she told the Washington Post.

The Miami Herald reported earlier this month that Chasser, a grandmother and self-described hippie, is being ordered by Miami-Dade County’s code enforcement office to take down the treehouse, which sits in the yard of her late son’s home. Chasser, who sells organic popcorn to get by, has lived in treehouses for the past 25 years, and says that she’s unable live in a traditional house, due to claustrophobia and a deep aversion to air conditioning.

Chasser’s current treehouse has a bedroom, an office, a kitchen, limited electricity, and has stood for ten years through all kinds of weather without incident. She’s not exactly hiding; the Associated Press wrote a story about her “peaceful paradise” back in 2007.

Chasser occasionally has tenants live with her, according to the AP story. (She previously advertised the home on Airbnb, but that listing seems to have been removed.) She told the Washington Post that she suspects a woman who was briefly staying with her got angry and anonymously called 311, prompting a series of visits from several inspectors. (Chasser says she asked the woman to leave after the guest left her three-year-old son unattended on a roof).


The inspectors found, as you would expect, a multitude of code violations, and have thus far fined her $3,000, according to the Herald. She says that in order to make the changes they’re demanding and bring her home up to code, she would need to spend $150,000 that she clearly doesn’t have.

Chasser told the Post, thought, that she doesn’t intend to leave. Her son Joshua Braden Levy died of a heart attack in 2009, and she says living on his property keeps her connected to him.

There’s surely no higher authority than the code-enforcement division of Miami-Dade County, but Chasser is pretty clearly not hurting anyone, besides possibly herself in a hurricane situation. Chasser says she’ll worry about her own safety, thanks: “They’re pretending it’s because they care about my safety, [but] I’m 65 years old. I can keep myself safe. They’re not here for my protection. They’re here for my money.”

We could all learn a thing or two from Shawnee, who should be allowed to stay in her goddamn treehouse.

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.

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The state where you can literally have a gun range in your back yard a hundred feet from your neighbor’s house and they won’t let her live in a tree?