8 Jun 2014

Metal spikes – treating homeless people like pigeons?

The attitude towards homeless people that led to metal spikes being installed outside a block of flats in central London to stop rough sleepers is criticised by charities.

Crisis, which seeks to help the homeless, said they deserved better after it was claimed that the spikes, inch-long studs driven into in the ground, were similar to measures used to deter pigeons. And one resident of the flats said homeless people were being treated “like animals”.

The charity said that homeless people “might have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse”.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, its head of policy and campaigns, said: “They deserve better than to be moved on to the next doorway along the street. We will never tackle rough sleeping with studs in the pavement. Instead we must deal with the causes.”

She added: “It is a scandal that anyone should sleep on the streets in 21st century Britain. Yet over the last three years rough sleeping has risen steeply across the country and by a massive 75 per cent in London.

“Behind these numbers are real people struggling with a lack of housing, cuts to benefits and cuts to homelessness services to help them rebuild their lives.

There was widespread disgust after pictures of the spikes outside a block of flats in Southwark, south central London, appeared on Twitter. They were posted by Andrew Horton, 33, from Woking, in Surrey.

People living in the flats said the metal studs were installed two weeks ago after homeless people were seen sleeping there.

It’s like treating these homeless people like animals. Emi Takehara, local resident

One resident, who asked not to be named, told the Daily Telegraph: “There was a homeless man asleep there about six weeks ago.

“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.”

A couple, who also asked to remain anonymous, said: “It’s because of the homeless. The spikes have only been there very recently, less than a month.”

A man looking around the flats told the paper that the spikes would not put him off. The man, who only gave his name as Peter, a lawyer, said: “But would you want homeless people outside your door?”

Are spikes the best way to deal with homelessness?

The head of Homelessness charity St Mungo's Broadway, Howard Sinclair, said it is not unusual to implement measures to prevent people sleeping rough in a particular location on a regular basis in order to stop them "adopting a street lifestyle".

He said the metal spikes found in London appeared to be a "rather brutal way of doing just that".But he said that preventative measures alone are not enough.

"The aim is to help people move in, not just move on."We need to harness that to help people on the streets now, but also to prevent more people ending up there in the future.

"If you are concerned about somebody sleeping rough, please contact Streetlink, the national referral line, so they can connect local services with them."

Contact StreetLink online or call 0300 500 0914.

Emi Takehara, who lives in the flats, told Sky News: “I feel really uncomfortable having these spikes in front of my home. It’s like treating these homeless people like animals.”

Southwark Council denied it was responsible for installing the spikes. In a statement, the council leader Peter John said: “The council can look into health and safety or planning concerns that are reported to us.

“With regards to people sleeping rough, the council has a dedicated officer who works closely with organisations like St Mungo’s [a homelessness charity], who have a ‘no second night out’ policy to ensure rough sleepers are found shelter and support.”