UK

Homeless People Facing 'Ever-More Hostile Streets'

People facing noise pollution and 'defensive architecture' such as spikes.

12/12/2016 08:38 GMT | Updated 12/12/2016 11:16 GMT

People sleeping rough are being forced to leave public spaces by “deliberate noise pollution” like loud music, a charity has said.

Crisis, a homelessness charity, said a fifth of those it surveyed said they were subjected to attempts to force them from places they chose to bed down, including loud music, bird song and traffic noise.

Crisis spoke to 458 people who were sleeping rough or had slept rough in the last year and said they were facing “ever-more hostile streets”.

One of them, Steve, said he was subjected to “noise, it wasn’t music it was like, bird’s noises, boats…and then trains.” 

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Crisis warned that rough sleepers were facing 'ever more hostile streets' (file picture)

Another, John, said there were three speakers along a tunnel that kept anyone from sleeping there.

He said: “You just couldn’t sleep, because of the noise, it was boats, trains, bird noises, animal noises, it was strange, it was altogether, you know, and it was weird, it was horrible.” 

Some 60% of those surveyed also said they had seen a rise in spikes and other types of “defensive architecture” that prevents people sleeping.

More than a third of those surveyed said this had prevented them from finding anywhere to sleep.

In total, 63% said they had seen an increase in wardens and security guards in public spaces, moving them on if they tried to sleep.

A woman Crisis spoke, Shelly, said police had become “a lot more vigilant”.

She said: “Before they’d leave you alone, whereas now, you know, they’ll come actually looking for you, and either arrest you or move you on.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said the findings came as the number of rough sleepers was rising and the winter temperatures were making sleeping rough more dangerous.

The charity called on “those designing homeless people out of public spaces to instead work with local services to help homeless people access the help they need”. 

Sparkes 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.

Some 21% of the homeless people surveyed reported being “wetted down” - when their makeshift sleeping arrangements are washed down when they are still in them.

“Instead of coming in in the mornings and saying, like, ‘Everybody had to get up,’ they start washing the steps down. So, you’d be in bed and getting wet,” John told Crisis. 

Steve Parsons/PA Archive
Metal spikes installed outside 118 Southwark Bridge Road, London, to deter homeless people from sleeping there.

As well as spikes, rough sleepers encountered other examples of “hostile architecture” included curved or segregated benches and gated doorways that make lying down impossible.

Dan, who was surveyed by Crisis, said: “I find all benches... They’re always either curved in the middle so they raise up, or they’re slanted so yeah, to be honest like it’s hard to find a bench to sleep in.”

Sparkes added: “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.”

Sparkes said the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Private Member’s Bill making its way through parliament, was “urgently needed”. It would oblige councils to to intervene earlier when people are at risk of becoming homeless.

He added: “If passed, this crucial bill will help prevent people from becoming homeless, instead of being forced to live on the ever-more hostile streets.”