Anti-homeless spikes have been removed in Manchester, England, after locals kept covering them with cushions. The spikes, intended to stop homeless people from sleeping on flat, raised surfaces, had been installed on a ramp outside the Pall Mall Court office building at the end of January.
After seeing the spikes featured in the Manchester Evening News (MEN), local resident Jennie Platt took her kids down to the building to cover the spikes with cushions; they also brought sandwiches and snacks for the homeless, who total around 78 on a given night in Manchester. “I thought it was really mean and a Scroogey thing to do, it is really unnecessary,” she told the MEN. “It’s a spot where people can keep warm and sheltered, people don’t need to be that mean.”
Platt isn’t the only person to attack anti-homeless spikes, which might be the most hostile incarnation of urban design that cities can implement. Back in 2015, activists covered up spikes in London’s gentrified Curtain Road with mattresses, and added shelf full of books for good measure.
Back in Manchester, local council spokesperson Pat Karney spoke to the owners of the building and condemned the spikes; a few days later, they were removed. “We all know there are a lot of difficulties in the city center,” he told the MEN, “but he only way we can resolve them is for businesses and the council to work with homeless people and homeless charities.”
Gentrification is not only about rising house prices and fancy coffee shops: It’s also about removing people and behaviors deemed undesirable from the streets. You can loiter outside a cafe for as long as you like if you pay for food or drinks, but try sitting on a window ledge and eating your own food and you’ll be asked to move. Anti-homeless spikes stake a particularly painful claim to public spaces. They are the manifestation of the real feelings behind gentrification: This place is now for us, not for you.