December 27, 2017
Anti-Homeless Spikes: Weapon Against Outdoor Sleepers Draws Angry Backlash

A bed of metal spikes appeared recently in the doorway of a pricey London apartment complex, and now some residents, as well as Twitter users, are outraged. They say the spikes are a brutal and inhuman method to prevent homeless people from sleeping outside the posh residential building where apartments sell for $1.3 million — and up.

"There was a homeless man asleep there about six weeks ago," one resident of the building todl London's Telegraph newspaper. "Then about two weeks ago all of a sudden studs were put up outside. I presume it is to deter homeless people from sleeping there."

Another resident confirmed the purpose of the inch-high spikes.

"It's because of the homeless. The spikes have only been there very recently, less than a month," the resident — who asked not to be named — told the newspaper.

Not everyone in the ritzy neighborhood was thrilled about the anti-homeless spikes.

"I feel really uncomfortable having these spikes in front of my home," said local resident Emi Takehara. "It's like treating these homeless people like animals."

The expensive building is located at 118 Southwark Bridge Road in central London. But a representative of the Southwark Council said the local government had nothing to do with this new weapon against the homeless.

"Southwark Council is aware of concerns raised regarding the installation of spikes outside a privately-owned building on Southwark Bridge Road to prevent rough sleeping," "said Peter John. "Without regards to people sleeping rough the council has a dedicated officer who works closely with organizations who have a 'no second night out' policy to ensure rough sleepers are found shelter an support."

On Twitter, where photos of the anti-homeless spikes first appeared, the reaction was mostly one of anger and disgust.

But the verdict was not unanimous.

Since the 2008 economic crisis, the British government has imposed a policy of "austerity," implementing harsh budget cuts, largely to social services, in the belief that slashing spending would bring down the country's budget deficit and spur economic growth.

But the result has mostly been a prolonged recession while Britain's deficit has actually increased.

The government's austerity policies have also contributed to a worsening of the homelessness problem in Britain, forcing many more people out of homes and shelters to sleep "rough" outdoors.

"This is happening in a context where rough sleeping has gone up massively," said Katharine Sacks-Jones of the London homeless-advocacy group Crisis. "Over the last three years rough sleeping has risen by 36 percent nationally and by 75 percent in London. More than 6,400 people slept rough in London last year. The reason for that increase is the continuing economic downturn, the housing shortage, and cuts to benefits, particularly housing benefit."

Sacks-Jones said that the spikes were a particularly unconscionable response to the homeless who "might have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse. They deserve better," she said.