How to Spot Anti-Homeless Architecture (and What to Do About It)

Image for article titled How to Spot Anti-Homeless Architecture (And What to Do About It)

photo: Michael VI (Shutterstock)

Public spaces should be free and open to everyone – that is usually the meaning of the word “public”. However, as the incredibly high cost of living leaves more and more people homeless, the definition of public space is shrinking to purposefully exclude them. Businesses and city governments mostly do this through hostile architecture that makes it uncomfortable or impossible to rest in public.

Hostile architecture (or hostile urban design) is a way of designing public spaces in a way that discourages or prevents certain behaviors, typically sleeping, sitting, and/or skateboarding. It allows designers to specifically exclude certain types of people – particularly homeless people and, to a lesser extent, teenagers – from a specific area. In fact, hostile architecture is so commonly used to attack the homeless that many of the most common examples are now referred to as “anti-homeless architecture.” How to recognize it.

What is “anti-homeless architecture”?

Anti-homeless architecture can be incredibly obvious, but more often than not it’s designed to offer at least some plausible denial. Segmented benches are the best-known example: these “armrests” actually make it impossible for anyone to lie down (and also for many fat people to sit comfortably). In some cases, benches may not be segmented, but sloping, tiered, curved, or otherwise impossible to lie on. Sometimes people intentionally place decorative design elements like trees, rocks, and planters where people camp; Useful infrastructure such as bicycle racks can also be used poorly.

However, sometimes the anti-homeless architecture is more open about its intentions. This is when you get things like spikes and rough rocks on any flat surface, especially under bridges. locked corners and fenced-in heat grids Send an even more explicit message to anyone looking for a seat. In some cases, companies will discourage camping flashing bright lights and or play loud alarms. Music can also be used against the homeless: in 2019, the Waterfront Lake Pavilion in West Palm Beach, Florida, “Baby Shark” and “It’s Raining Tacos” blared through the night to prevent anyone from sleeping there.

These are just a few of many examples. Basically, if it looks, feels and/or sounds like a space was intentionally designed to make resting impossible, it probably was – no matter what anyone says to the contrary.

Why hostile architecture is terrible

The first and foremost problem with hostile architecture is that it’s inhuman. Preventing someone from sitting or lying down in public is just plain cruel, and it’s even worse when they have nowhere else to do it. The second problem is that many in power seem to believe this is a legitimate way to address the homelessness crisis. It’s not: Homelessness is caused by insufficient housing, rising rents and stagnating wages. Dumping boulders on the sidewalk solves precisely zero of these problems – it just forces people into even more precarious living conditions.

If the cruelty wasn’t bad enough, anti-homeless architecture is also incredibly expensive. For example, last year in Portland, Oregon, The city council approved a $44 million public safety bill that earmarked $500,000 Install anti-homeless benches on the southern border of Laurelhurst Park. So far, these benches haven’t sprung up — likely due to public backlash against the idea of ​​spending half a million dollars on benches — but it’s a good example of how much cities are willing to spend to ban certain residents from public spaces. This begs the question: if homelessness is such a big problem, why not spend money on housing and services instead of expensive penalties that only make the problem worse?

The answer is that, in the US at least, many people believe homelessness is bad not because human suffering is bad, but because people sleeping on the streets are bad her Businesses, property values ​​and feelings – so they bug their councilors and mayors to “do something about it”. Politicians are often only too happy to comply, which means more camp sweeps, more arrests and more anti-homeless urban design, all of which they can justify by the number of complaints they receive.

What you can do about it

If you notice an increase in anti-homeless architecture in your area, you can do something to help – namely to complain. Complaints get these projects approved, and they can shut them down too. Find out who is responsible for a specific feature: who requested it and why? Who approved it and why? Who installed it and for how much? Then let them know how you feel about it, preferably in writing. For even more impact, get your friends and neighbors to complain too.

You should also avoid companies that contribute to anti-homeless efforts in your area — and not just those that install hostile designs on your doorstep. Many business owners proudly air their cruel views at every opportunity, especially on social media, so it’s pretty easy to find out where they stand. You may also consider becoming involved in a housing advocacy group. The current anti-homeless urban design wave may be relatively recent, but the problems it exacerbates are certainly not. No matter where you live, people are already working to make things better. If you’re serious about helping, start there.

All of this goes double (or triple) for people who already own a home. Homeowners and neighborhood associations wield tremendous power in local politics, and not always in a good way. Unless you subscribe to the “fuck you, got mine” worldview, it’s incredibly important to let people know — especially the assholes in your HOA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *