Have you ever seen pigeon spikes set up in urban spaces? Basically, they’re metal spikes that protrude from ledges of buildings to prevent pigeons and other birds from nesting on or in buildings. Well apparently, the building managers of the Pall Mall Court in Manchester, England thought these spikes were a nifty idea, and recently had them installed around their building to prevent homeless people from sleeping in doorways.
But not everyone thought it was such a “good” idea. In fact, some people were downright outraged. After reading about the anti-homeless spikes on the Manchester Evening News website, local mom Jennie Platt rallied her family and friends and hatched a plan.
“I saw the story on the M.E.N. website and it really angered me. I thought it was really mean and a Scroogey thing to do, it is really unnecessary. It’s a spot where people can keep warm and sheltered, people don’t need to be that mean.”
So with the help of friends and family, Platt gathered together clean, warm blankets, pillows, and even sandwiches and chocolate bars. She covered the spikes with colorful blankets and pillows and placed a friendly sign that read, “take a seat and have a bite to eat.”
And people did!
Platt’s humanitarian efforts soon got the attention of locals, with images and video of her heartwarming “upgrade” of the anti-homeless spikes went viral.
Anti-homeless tactics in architecture are not new. A simple Google search will reveal questionable approaches called ‘hostile architecture,’ in which building designers can implement intentionally uncomfortable or even unsafe design measures to deter homeless people from spending any time in or around a building. The anti-homeless spikes are but a new iteration of this; a dehumanizing approach to dealing with a growing homeless problem in urban centers around the world.
But at least in this case, there’s some good news: Several days after the public joined Platt and her kids in outrage, the Manchester Evening News reported that the building managers at Pall Mall Court had the anti-homeless spikes removed.
While it may be true that this compassionate gesture by a Manchester family is only a temporary fix to an otherwise systemic and heartbreaking problem, it’s important to note that when stories like this one go viral, a larger, more productive conversation about homelessness and how we treat each other can emerge. It’s through those kinds of conversations that real and meaningful change can happen through charity, grassroots volunteerism, and legislative changes.
In the aftermath of the spikes being removed, Pat Kearney, the Manchester Council City Center spokesman, told the Manchester Evening News:
“I had a common sense conversation with [the building managers] on Sunday night. We all know there are a lot of difficulties in the city centre, but he only way we can resolve them is for businesses and the council to work with homeless people and homeless charities. I am pleased that the spikes have been removed. This is not the image of Manchester we want to project.”
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