Hostile planning results in antagonistic spaces for those who are rough sleeping, homeless aimed at discouraging a worthwhile sleep. Manipulating a physical environment to make it uncomfortable makes it uninviting or unwelcoming for homeless to congregate often, or at all. Adding dividing elements on benches, making picnic table seating narrower or simply restricting people from certain areas makes it difficult for people to sleep or rest on them.
Some cities are openly hostile such as Montreal who installed “anti-homeless” spikes making it a no go to lied down, or rock piling in underpasses or outside of buildings.
University of Winnipeg professor Barry Pomeroy says that “the ethos behind it (is) ‘Let us get rid of the poor. Let us make it so uncomfortable downtown, they cannot be there,’” he says. “We’re sort of doing this with our public spaces, and I just find that annoying. It’s not right.”
Defensive architecture, affects everyone, but it disproportionately affects the homeless. United Kingdom by Crisis (2017) study found growing numbers reported that the homeless are finding it increasingly difficult to find a place to sleep due to defensive architecture.
Altering public feeling of safety at the detriment of a marginalized population group is promoting stigmas of those who are rough sleeping or homeless. Partitioned seats in bus shelters and rocks in underpasses do not jump out as hostile to the uninformed resident, yet they effectively stop people from loitering nonetheless.
Not intending to affect marginalized people, those who implement hostile architecture simply need education of what is happening. Coming from a well-intended safety first think speak, it has unintended consequences. The City of Guelph planning needs to consider how decisions affect all citizens of Guelph and most acutely marginalized people.
Studies show that a small percentage of communities do intentionally use this type of planning to deter people from sleeping outdoors. It is paramount that future development emphasizes that public space is truly public.
The quality of life will enlighten for all residents when we look to find friendlier solutions to public spaces.