(StraightNews.org) – Democrats in Washington want to ban “hostile architecture,” which they say prevents homeless people from setting up public encampments. Senate Bill 6231, sponsored by four Democrats, would prohibit the city from constructing buildings or installing design elements that could “restrict the use of any public space by people experiencing homelessness.”
The bill defines “hostile architecture” as any building with installations that prevent homeless people from sleeping or sitting outside. It comes weeks after the state spent $700,000 placing boulders at cleared former homeless encampments. Supporters of the new legislation argue that the $700,000 would be better used to address homelessness and its causes. Michelle Thomas with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance said using public money to construct “hostile architecture” is an admission by lawmakers that they do not intend to take homelessness seriously.
Also known as defensive architecture or exclusionary design, hostile architecture is used to prevent certain activities from taking place at a specified location and is usually associated with preventing homeless camps. In Portland, Oregon, plants and bike racks are used to prevent people from sleeping on sidewalks, and last February, Connecticut lawmakers debated a statewide ban.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and Connecticut Voices for Children supported House Bill 6400, whereas the Connecticut Council of Small Towns opposed it. The proposals were referred to the state’s planning and development committee, and the debate is ongoing.
Examples of hostile architecture include slanted seats, which permit sitting but not lying down – these are among the most common and are found throughout the US. Armrests in the middle of benches and rocky sidewalks are likewise typical, and both deter public sleeping. Metal spikes fixed to windowsills and walls prevent sitting, while barred corners prevent public urination. Other examples include plant pots and raised grate covers.
Hostile architecture is more common in Europe than in the United States, and in 2015, British artist Stuart Semple launched a campaign to ban it, describing it as “cruel.”
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