‘Anti-homeless’ benches, sprinklers and bike racks are the latest examples of hostile architecture appearing in cities designed to deter rough sleepers.
Rapper Professor Green criticised benches installed in Bournemouth which feature a metal bar across the middle to stop people sleeping on them.
“What’s the message here? ‘Hey you poor sods with no safety net … Cause you won’t have the ‘comfort’ of this bench to sleep on! Ha!” the 34-year-old, who presented a recent BBC Three documentary on youth homelessness, posted on Twitter.
“Again, nothing done to tackle the problem, just something to make it more invisible so we can pretend it isn’t happening.”
Anti Homeless benches in Bournemouth. What’s the message here? ‘Hey you poor sods with no safety net – you better really hope life doesn’t throw any shit at you now! And god forbid you make a bad life decision! Cause you won’t have the ‘comfort’ of this bench to sleep on! Ha!’. Again, nothing done to tackle the problem, just something to make it more invisible so we can pretend it isn’t happening.
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In Bristol, a salon has installed sprinklers to stop homeless people sleeping outside the building.
Jesper Primdahl, director of the Consul tanning salon, defended the sprinklers, claiming it was a response to finding vomit and needles outside the premises, adding that a group had been abusive to staff.
“We called the police four or five times,” he told the Bristol Post. “It was too much. In the end we thought what is the least aggressive deterrent? The simplest solution was to make it rain in that area, just enough to stop people sleeping there.”
In Seattle, the installation of bike racks in September under a viaduct where homeless campers had been has also been criticised.
“These aren’t bike racks, they are bike-washed ‘anti-homeless spikes’,” wrote Tom Fucoloro in his Seattle Bike Blog.
Western under viaduct pic.twitter.com/yQ39mRLI03
— Dongho Chang (@dongho_chang) October 22, 2017
The Seattle Department of Transportation confirmed to The Stranger that the bike racks were part of a “strategy for lessening the hazards of unsheltered living by creating space for a different active public use”.
Homeless charity Crisis said the use of “hostile architecture” and other anti-homeless measures is “a sad indictment of how we treat the most vulnerable people in our society”.
“Rough sleeping is devastating enough without homeless people having to endure such hostility in their communities,” Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs for Crisis, told the Telegraph.
“Rather than perpetuating people’s homelessness, we need to address the root causes of rough sleeping to end it once and for all. We have evidence to show how the situation could be turned around, now is the time to act.”
Bournemouth Borough Council said changes were made to a small number of benches several months ago following “numerous complaints by members of the public and local traders”.
“The complaints related to a number of the benches being unavailable to members of the public throughout the day due to people lying on them during the daytime,” a spokesperson said.
“In Bournemouth we deliver a wide range of services for homeless people, including providing approximately 150 hostel bed spaces for homeless people and funding the St Mungo’s rough sleeper assertive outreach team.
“As a council, we need to maintain a careful balance between our responsibility to the wider public to ensure that amenities are available to them, and our duty of care to vulnerable members of our community, including people rough sleeping.”
Thousands of campaigners previously signed a petition urging the removal of ‘anti-homeless spikes’ outside a Selfridges store in Manchester.