The owners of a row of luxury condominium apartments in London are the focus of controversy from human rights campaigners following the decision to install dull, one-inch “spikes” meant to deter the homeless from sleeping near their buildings.
The spikes have been around for the past two weeks, according to residents who live in the building. They became the focal point of a global debate on homeless issues after a British man posted a photo of them to Twitter.
The spikes, which are set up alongside an apartment building that shares space with a homeless shelter, have drawn a wave of criticism among residents and amateur pundits on social media alike.
“I feel really uncomfortable having these spikes in front of my home,” resident Emi Takehara told Sky News. “It’s really treating these homeless people like animals, nothing less.”
“These anti-homeless studs are like the spikes they use to keep pigeons off buildings,” Twitter user David Wells wrote. “The destitute (are) now considered vermin.”
Others say the developers are simply responding to an issue that has no easy solution.
“I live in an area where there are drunks/junkies sleeping rough,” one user wrote on Twitter. “I feel sorry for them but don’t want them in my doorstep.”
Howard Sinclair, the chief executive of a local homeless shelter, doesn’t want anyone sleeping in doorways either. But the installation of metal spikes is a harsh deterrent that provides no real solution to the problem.
“Each year our teams, in Southwark and elsewhere, help thousands of people off the streets,” Sinclair told Sky News. “Part of their role is to prevent people adopting a street lifestyle which, on occasions, means adapting the physical environment to prevent people sleeping rough in a particular location on a regular basis. These ‘studs’ appear a rather brutal way of doing just that.”
“It is a scandal that anyone should sleep on the streets in 21st-century Britain,” said Katharine Sacks-Jones who leads the homelessness charity Crisis. “They deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes.”
Alex Andreou, who was once homeless himself, said the installation of spikes will make “recovery less likely” for any homeless individual who comes upon them.
“It consigns them further out of sight so that the rest may continue to pretend that real poverty doesn’t exist,” Andreou wrote in a think piece for The Guardian. “It doesn’t just deny someone who has absolutely nothing, a place to rest; it is a sign which reads, Not even this bit of earth. Not even for the night.”
Officials say they will investigate any complaints about the installation of the spikes, which have appeared in other locations throughout London. Those officials say they can’t order the removal of the spikes if they are found to be in compliance with building codes.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.