As if the lives of homeless people weren’t already difficult enough, property owners have found a new way to stick thorns in the homeless population’s sides… literally, even. After a man began taking overnight shelter near an apartment’s doorway, the apartment installed metal spikes on the ground to ensure that sleeping in the spot would prove uncomfortable.
The spikes, which appeared around luxury apartment complexes in Southwark, have attracted a lot of attention for their apparent cruelty. Thus far, the apartment’s management has been vague about who ordered the spikes as well as which company helped to install them. Many of the residents, however, are not in favor of this new feature. “I feel really uncomfortable having these spikes in front of my home,” said Emi Takehara, one of the building’s tenants. “They’re treating these homeless people like animals, nothing less.”
Although media attention is focusing on the one specific apartment building, blogger Mike Ashworth has photographic evidence of at least one other location in London that has started utilizing “defensive architecture” in a bid to keep homeless people away. Another news report notes that the spikes are gaining in popularity amongst private property owners:
The reason for the sudden jump in spike installations is hardly a secret. According to homeless charities, the homeless rate in London has increased by 75% in the past three years alone. British homeless advocate Katharine Sacks-Jones spoke to remind people of the ongoing lack of humanity. “Behind these numbers are real people struggling with a lack of housing, cuts to benefits and cuts to homelessness services to help them rebuild their lives,” she said.
In addition to public outcry, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson has gone on the record as opposing the spikes. On Twitter, he commented that the spikes are “ugly, self defeating, and stupid.” He added that the “developer should remove them ASAP.” While city officials can advocate for their removal, legally, there probably isn’t much that can be done to force the apartment to get rid of them so long as the spikes don’t go against existing building codes and regulations.
While spikes may be a “solution” for getting homeless people to not sleep in a specific location, it’s really not much of a solution at all. In essence, all it really does is push people looking for a relatively safe and comfortable place to spend the night to another location. Rather than fixing the problem, the approach just passes it off to someone else to deal with instead.
Spikes are similar to many of the laws passed in America that prevent people serving food to homeless populations and sleeping on the sidewalks. None of these laws stop people from living on the streets, they just serve to make their lives more difficult. Unfortunately, given the current hostility toward homeless people, it seems more likely that we’ll see these spikes make their way to the United States instead of taking proactive steps to assist the homeless.
Photo Credit: Andrew Horton