Hostil architecture

What is hostile architecture?

Individual benches, concrete balls, spikes in the ground, sloped windowsills, bars… These are some examples of hostile architecture that we find in big cities and that represent a violation of rights for homeless people.

From Arrels we demand inclusive cities and residential solutions so that no one has to sleep on the street and we invite you to make visible the barriers of your environment in social networks with the hashtag #FemCiutatsInclusives and in this collaborative map.

“Bars on the bus benches, spikes in the ground, individual benches… are these the solutions for not seeing people sleeping on the street?”, asked some people we know who have lived on the street. From Arrels we believe that these architectural barriers are not the solution because the problem does not disappear, it only moves to another place; they entail added difficulties for people and represent a violation of rights.

How does hostile architecture affect people living on the street?

  • It makes everyday life difficult. Living on the street means not having a safe space where you can rest, where you can store your things, where you can enjoy your privacy… It also means having to face many risks on a daily basis, and architectural barriers often create additional difficulties. Luis, who has lived on the street for years, considers them “horrible and even unethical”. On the other hand, Barcelona’s civility ordinance adds another obstacle and prohibits “using benches and public seating for uses other than those for which they are intended”.
  • It increases stress and anxiety. When you live in the street you have to face fear, insecurity and lack of rest every day. With these barriers comes the feeling that society rejects you and the stress of having to find a new safe place to sleep. “For a person who lives on the street, it is unpleasant to the eye (and the body) to see that they have to put spikes in the place where they sleep,” says one person we know.
  • It is a violation of rights. Living on the street means having to find a safe space where you can shelter and feel protected. When these barriers prevent this, many rights are being violated. A man we know, however, continues to sleep in the same doorway where he has done so for the last seven years, despite the fact that a few months ago someone put some planters to prevent him from laying down there. When the local police called his attention because his legs are in the way, he answered: “Cut them off if you want and this way they won’t bother you”.
  • It makes it difficult for street teams to locate them. When a homeless person is forced to change his or her usual place, he or she risks losing the link with the social support teams that visit him or her on the street. Re-locating the person and re-establishing contact may take time due to the lack of communication channels.
  • It criminalizes people. People are not on the street because they want, but because they have no place to live. Nor are they in this situation because they deserve it or because they have asked for it. These barriers, in addition to making life on the street uncomfortable and difficult, criminalize the most vulnerable people.
  • It does not act on the causes. Architectural barriers, rather than offering solutions, displace rest spaces and make a social problem invisible. “It is a sad way of understanding public space, expelling people who have problems instead of solving them,” says a person who has lived on the street.

What do we propose from Arrels?

  • We demand friendly and committed cities, with welcoming and inclusive public spaces. “Instead of putting spikes, piles and more barriers so that a person cannot sleep on the street, put more shelters and resources”, claimed different people who have lived on the street who we attend in Arrels.
  • We urge political parties to take into account the homeless people situation, to bet on housing, prevention and decent benefits and to include solutions to homelessness in their electoral programs.
  • We promote awareness to break down prejudices and explain that people do not sleep on benches and in doorways because they want but because their ties have been broken and they have nowhere to go. We must keep in mind that getting off the street is a slow process and that solutions are not short-term.
  • We propose to opt for mediation, to talk to the person, not to judge them, to ask them what they need, to agree on coexistence relations, to contact organizations and municipal care services, to orient them towards the resources they can use… We recommend not to wait for the winter because living on the street is hard all year round and emergency situations must be foreseen.
  • We ask for the involvement of citizens to demand solutions from administrations, offer affordable rents to social entities, raise awareness of the environment and collaborate to make #nobodysleepingonthestreet possible. According to a survey to the citizenship promoted by Arrels in 2016, 75% of the people from Barcelona consider homelessness a significant problem and 4 out of 5 believe that it is necessary to recover the rights of people because living in the street is not normal.
  • We invite you to make visible examples that you find around you using the hashtag #FemCiutatsInclusives in social networks or publishing the photograph and specific location in this collaborative map.
  • We demand access to decent and stable housing with social support so that people who sleep on the street can regain their rights. While progress is being made in this regard, we propose to open small, safe and welcoming spaces throughout the city so that no one has to sleep on the street.

Let’s make inclusive cities!

What we would like is for homeless people to be able to make use of public space like any other citizen and, as a society, to care about everyone having a home where they can sleep at night. We are convinced that it is possible to achieve #nobodysleepingonthestreet but for that we need social care and housing policies aimed at people living on the street and prevention policies so that no one loses their home.