Activists in London, where several apartment complexes and businesses have drawn international attention for installing outdoor metal spikes to deter homeless people, are fighting back.
A collective called Space, Not Spikes has launched an attention-grabbing installation project in which they covered a row of such spikes outside the Shoreditch nightclub Plastic People with a comfortable bed and a free-to-peruse library of books. They're trying to call attention to the policing of public space and the spikes' intended purpose to run the disadvantaged out of certain neighborhoods.
In a video posted to Vimeo and subsequent Tumblr posts, the activists documented their protest.
First the space looked like:
In an op-ed for the Guardian, group member Leah Borromeo called attention to the growing trend of "defensive architecture," which she argued weaponizes public space against the homeless. "If some developers had their way, they'd commodify oxygen," Borromeo writes.
They're not alone in opposing such spikes. A Vancouver charity named RainCity Housing chose to make public benches welcome and accommodating for the homeless instead of attempting to drive them off. Another group called London Black Revolutionaries covered another set of spikes outside a convenience store with cement in the summer of 2014.
"Living in a city, we bumble along from place to place in tightly martialed lines. We're told where we can walk, where we can sit, where we are welcome but only if we spend money. Or have it. It makes us neurotic and engenders a deep sense of 'otherness' in anyone who chooses to or simply cannot buy in to what currently passes for society and leisure," the collective said of the Space, Not Spikes project on the Better Than Spikes Tumblr page.
"Anti-homeless spikes are part of that invention. Nothing says 'keep out' to a person more than rows of sharpened buttplugs laid out to stop people from enjoying or using public space."
The collective says they want to challenge the notion that there is something "wrong" with the homeless inhabiting public spaces. "Regardless of whether you own, rent or even have a home, the streets are ours," they conclude.
The Guardian reported in August 2014 that the English homeless population had skyrocketed to 112,070 in 2013, a 25% increase in four years, and that the number of people sleeping outside in the city had grown by 75%.
Watch the Space, Not Spikes video below: