Anti-homeless spikes are designed and installed to prevent homeless people from sitting or sleeping on the concrete area or steps in the city. They are a simple example of how urban planning creates spaces and tools that can keep homeless away instead of creating spaces to assist and uplift them. These spikes are not installed in all the cities, however, metropolitans like Montreal and Tokyo have implemented these so that people cannot rest there for a long time. The issue is that apart from making homeless people invisible and disguising the problem these spikes do nothing to solve the actual problem.
Leah Borromeo is a member of an art collective called “Space Not Spikes.” These are the people who are fed up with what she describes as “hostile architecture.” In an interview, she explained about the effects of spikes and said, “Spikes do nothing more than shoo the realities of poverty and inequality away from your backyard — so you don’t have to see it or confront what you can do to make things more equal…And that is selfish.” She further added, “our moral compass is skewed if we think things like this are acceptable.”
To combat spikes, ‘Space, Not Spikes” has reclaimed these areas and have placed beds, pillows, and bookshelves stocked with books. This move has gained a lot of attention of media from all over the world. It also received a shoutout from musician Ellie Goulding on her Instagram page. Borromeo explained why she thinks this movement has gained so much attention. She said, “[The project has] definitely touched a nerve and I think it is because, as a whole, humans will still look out for each other […] Capitalism and greed conditions us to look out for ourselves and negate the welfare of others, but ultimately, I think we’re actually really kind.”
The anti-homeless spikes are a visible form of discrimination which targets homeless people however there are many other forms of anti-homeless laws which are passed without any contestation since they are against the people who are invisible. Some of these laws include bans on panhandling and prohibiting people from sleeping in cars. A report by the National Law Centre on Homelessness & Poverty found that in 187 American cities, a 45% increase in citywide bans on sitting or laying down in specific areas was noted since 2011. Good news is that there are groups who are still working on behalf of this homeless population and creating awareness around the issues that they face. Borromeo states, “[The world] won’t always be happy-clappy because positive social change needs constructive conflict and debate. We need to call out injustice and hypocrisy when we see it.”