2014 / 28 December

Vancouver provides an innovative and classy response to help the homeless

Earlier this year, Camden Borough Council came under fire for their “Camden Bench”, a design inspired to dissuade drug deals, bag theft, skateboarding and littering. But the design was also heavily criticised for stopping homeless people from using the bench as a place to sleep at night.


The design style became known as “hostile architecture” and was taken one step further with metal spikes being installed in covered areas near apartments, outside shopping centres and on flat public areas that originally were sat or slept on.

Hostile architecture: spikes

The act of installing metal spikes to stop homeless people from gaining shelter is fundamentally deplorable. The issue of homelessness is one that every city seeks to address and London is not excluded from that. After a petition of 132,560 signatures, London Mayor, Boris Johnson weighed in on the argument, stating, “We’ve spent £34m on the likes of ‘no 2nd night out’ [which aims to ensure no one spends more than one night on the streets], reaching 3/4s of rough sleepers, but must do more. Spikes are simply not the answer… Spikes outside Southwark housing development to deter rough sleeping are ugly, self-defeating & stupid. Developer should remove them ASAP.”



And, thankfully it worked.

Enter, Vancouver. A city rife with homelessness, Vancouver nonprofit RainCity Housing, along with Spring Advertising installed modified public benches, with the goal of raising awareness and providing shelter for the homeless. Two types of benches were created: the first was designed to build awareness by being painted with two messages, one stating “this is a bench” and at night glow in the dark paint that reads, “this is a bedroom”.


The second, and most ingenious is a bench with a back section that can be converted from a backrest into an overhanging cover. When the roof is up, RainCity’s housing address is posted on the inside along with the message, “Find a home here.” In an email exchange with The Huffington Post, Spring Advertising’s Creative Director Rob Schlyecher said, “Simply put, our society cannot expect homeless people to just go away. They need a safe place to sleep and a base from which to stabilize their lives.”

There are two key points to take away from this. The first is that the people behind the hostile architecture in London should be condemned for their narrow-minded actions (and kudos to the swift response and public outcry supported by Boris Johnson). The second is that the folk at RainCity and Spring Advertising should be congratulated for an incredibly innovate way to help a long-standing cultural problem. It doesn’t solve homelessness (nor should it be expected to), but it’s a wonderful gesture and creative thinking to try and help where they can. If more people approached an issue in this way, we would be making much greater strides to solve some gigantic social problems.

Original article here.
Written for Truly Deeply blog.

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