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Crisis uncovers dehumanising effects of defensive architecture

Homeless people are increasingly being forced out of public spaces by hostile measures such as spikes, curved or segregated benches and deliberate noise pollution.

In new research conducted by Crisis over 450 people were surveyed in homelessness services across England and Wales, with six in ten reporting an increase over the last year in defensive architecture - such as anti-homeless spikes, curved or segregated benches and gated doorways - that makes sitting or lying down impossible. Over the same period, 35% reported they were unable to find anywhere to sleep or rest as a result.

When they did find a place to rest, a fifth (20%) of those surveyed reported suffering from deliberate noise pollution such as loud music or recorded bird song and traffic sounds, making it hard or impossible to sleep.

A further 63% had witnessed an increase in wardens and security guards in public spaces. Some respondents reported being regularly moved on in the middle of the night, while 21% reported 'wetting down' - having makeshift sleeping areas washed down while they were still in them.

With temperatures plummeting and rough sleeping continuing to rise across the country, Crisis is calling on those designing homeless people out of public spaces to instead work with local services to help homeless people access the help they need.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said:

“The rise of anti-homeless spikes, noise pollution and other hostile measures is a sad indictment of how we treat the most vulnerable people in our society. Rough sleeping is devastating enough without homeless people having to endure such hostility from their surroundings.

“We can all be guilty of adopting an out of sight, out of mind attitude when it comes to homelessness. Instead we need to acknowledge that it is rising and that we need to work together to end it. Councils, developers, businesses and other proponents of hostile architecture need to think again about the obvious harm these insidious measures are causing. People who are forced to sleep rough need access to the appropriate help, not to be regarded as a problem to be swept under the carpet.

“Helping people to stay off the streets and rebuild their lives is about basic social justice – it’s the right thing to do. That’s why the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, is so urgently needed. If passed, this crucial bill will help prevent people from becoming homeless, instead of being forced to live on the ever-more hostile streets.”