By Kendyl Brower
Strolling down the street, citizens barely notice awnings with gaps, slanted benches, metal armrests, or massive planters in the streets. Yet, another population suffers from these inconspicuous yet intentional design choices: the homeless.
Hostile architecture, or defensive design, aims to impede crime and deter loitering. Such disciplinary design choices can maintain order in the streets; in the 19th century, urine deterrents were placed along alleyways and in crevices to prevent unwarranted urination.
However, in recent years hostile architecture has targeted the homeless population, aiming to make every possible bench, corner, and grate impossible to sleep on without scaring off the general public. A method for preventing crime evolved into an inhumane tool for urban segregation, deeming the homeless population unworthy of accessing the city.
Intentional design choices criminalize poverty while shielding the public from a growing body of impoverished people. The implementation of anti-homeless infrastructure only pushes the issue onto the next street, rather than dealing with the root of the issue, poverty. The money invested in these design projects could be going to the development of affordable homes and livable wages. It’s clear that hostile architecture does not try to make cities safer or more appealing (metal spikes and concrete benches are not exactly attractive). Rather, the design choices reflect an ignorant attempt at countering homelessness while deepening the socioeconomic divide among classes.
Next time you walk down a busy street, you might notice these deliberate design decisions that obstruct the homeless. Here are a few common ones:
- Slanted Benches
Cities create benches that are impossible to lay down on to prevent the impoverished from trying to sleep overnight on them.
- Street Spikes
Pavements speckled with spikes ward off potential sleepers.
- Awning Gaps
Rain can seep through the gaps between awnings and structures, thus prohibiting the homeless from resting against the building.
- Raised Grate Covers
In the winter, many homeless people gather around vents that release warm air. Thus, raised covers deter sleepers.