Vancouver shelter-benches show up London’s ‘anti-homeless’ spikes as how not to deal with rough sleepers

The benches offer shelter from the Vancouver rain - and advice about where to seek more long-term help

When the management of a block of luxury flats in London felt they had an issue with homeless people sleeping on the doorstep, their solution was apparently to install a set of spikes that were later branded “ugly, self-defeating and stupid” by Boris Johnson.

The Mayor faced criticism himself for not doing more to deal with the growing number of people sleeping rough in the capital – so perhaps he could look to the work of a charity in Vancouver for inspiration.

RainCity Housing, which provides specialised accommodation and support services for homeless people in the Canadian city, has set up instant pop-up shelters that take the form of an ordinary park bench.

During the day, the innovative design simply works as the back support to benches where people might sit and eat lunch or while waiting for a bus.

But at night, the boards fold out upwards, providing emergency cover in what is – like London – a notoriously rainy city.

The imaginative designs from Spring Advertising in Vancouver aimed to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in the city The imaginative designs from Spring Advertising in Vancouver aimed to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in the city The dual use of the bench has been highlighted in one of the designs from Vancouver creative agency Spring Advertising. UV letters react with sunlight and read “This is a bench” during the day. At night, a separate set of glow-in-the-dark letters emerge to say “This is a bedroom”, and directs rough sleepers to RainCity’s website.

Another design says “Find shelter here” on the bench’s back support. When lifted up, it encourages the user to go one step further and “Find a home here” – listing the address of a RainCity refuge.

Bill Briscall from RainCity said that while there are only a handful of the benches across Vancouver at the moment, they have already helped to raise awareness of its serious homelessness issue.

A row of one-inch-high studs, which protesters claimed were designed to prevent people sleeping rough, were spotted outside a Tesco Metro on London's Regent Street just days after after a similar strip of spikes were photographed outside a luxury block of flats in Southwark (pictured). Homeless studs outside a London flat Mr Briscall told The Telegraph: “We don’t know if they have been used by homeless folks, but probably. In a park one block from my house I see people sleeping overnight almost every month throughout the year.”

The scandal over the “anti-homeless” spikes in London earlier this month saw a branch of Tesco Metro remove a number of studded slabs which it said were to prevent anti-social behaviour like smoking and drinking outside the store.

It brought further attention to the fact that homelessness under Mr Johnson was up 60 per cent over the previous two years, according to the most recent figures, and led to an online petition calling for the Mayor to “do more to help these people instead of isolating them further”.

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