Social media lit up with outrage last week over the news that an upmarket London apartment building had installed ‘homeless spikes’ in its entryway.
They are also commonly used on private property in New York, a city where space is at a premium, to stop people from perching on windowsills and stairways.
Commentators have claimed that the spikes are representative of how society views homeless people and others who are living rough.
Urban decline day. How we fail to comfort and care for most vulnerable in our society reveals our barbarism. #antihomelessspikes
— Alice Dubiel (@odaraia) June 7, 2014
— Karyna Morris (@funkywitch1982) June 8, 2014
Harriet Wells, a mental health nurse in London, started a online petition against the spikes, arguing that homeless people are isolated and mistreated.
“We should be offering practical and emotional support to help the most vulnerable to get back on their feet,” wrote Wells.
“We should not be sending them the message that they are pests that need to be warded off.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson also condemned the spikes, calling on the building’s managers to remove them immediately.
“Spikes outside Southwark housing development to deter rough sleeping are ugly, self defeating & stupid,” said Mr Johnson in a tweet.
Spikes outside Southwark housing development to deter rough sleeping are ugly, self defeating & stupid. Developer should remove them ASAP.
— Boris Johnson (@MayorofLondon) June 9, 2014
Crisis, the UK’s national homelessness charity, said in a statement that the rate of people sleeping rough had risen by 75 per cent in London over the past three years.
Some bloggers have risked abuse by actually saying that they agree with the homeless spikes.
I disagree. If it’s on private property owners have every right to use deterrents, if it’s causing an issue for them http://t.co/q2MylwxyK3
— Smiffymaid (@smiffymaid) June 9, 2014
Another nursing student and homeless outreach worker, who has decided to remain anonymous, wrote that the spikes helped groups engage with homeless people.
“As horrific as it must sound, sometimes you have to remove a person’s sleep site in order to engage that person,” she wrote.
“I know this because I worked for a homeless outreach team and battled to engage rough sleepers who were so entrenched that they refused to accept help.”
Another blogger even went as far to say that the apartment block had a right to instal the spikes because it was their private property.
Are these spikes inhuman and a reflection of how modern society fails the disadvantaged? Or are they simply a measure to engage the homeless? Do building owners have a right to install this ‘defensive architecture‘?
Share your thoughts with us below.