Activists Are Making Beds to Combat London’s Anti-Homelessness Spikes
In a city known for its grand Victorian and Edwardian buildings, a tiny architectural addition is popping up on the ground, using round metal spikes to keep the homeless from resting in particular public places.
Armed with comfortable bedding and throw pillows, activists are installing a social justice–aware makeover of the little spikes used by London’s urban planners to dissuade so-called antisocial activity.
Space, Not Spikes, the equality-conscious group behind the idea, has added a mattress, pillows, and a semi-stocked bookshelf to the outside of what was the Plastic People Nightclub in East London.
“We hope that by mocking the bed of spikes with a soft, inviting bed of our own that people will look around, notice the social controls built into the space around them, and find ways of making that space more equal and inclusive,” Leah Borromeo, an activist involved in the project, told TakePart.
Borromeo sees the spikes as a form of defensive architecture—structures created to send an aggressive message of unwelcome to those who don't fit within societal norms. With this initiative, she’s hoping to change the way developers and city dwellers respond to homeless individuals.
According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, citywide bans on lying down or sitting in public places have increased by 43 percent, and bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased by 119 percent, since 2011. Considering these proliferating laws, it’s understandable that an estimated 74 percent of homeless people don’t know where it is safe and legal to sleep.
“The fact that we have homelessness in the wealthiest country on Earth says more much about our choices as a group rather than the individual choices that may have led someone into homelessness,” said Eric Tars, senior attorney at the center.
On June 23, the Los Angeles City Council approved laws authorizing the seizure and, in certain cases, destruction of homeless property, including makeshift shelters, the Los Angeles Times reported.
However, activist groups like Space, Not Spikes are proving that there is a way to take a stand against these measures and to make a positive difference in our cities.
“When you address homelessness by ensuring everyone’s basic human right to adequate housing, it solves the problem of homelessness both for individuals and the community, all at a lower cost,” Tars said.