Homeless Spikes: Why Anti-Homeless Flower Beds Are Way Worse
The king of lunchtime impartiality Jeremy Vine, was this week given the perfect opportunity to utilise his full vocal range, from wholehearted disdain to total nonchalance, with all statements finished off with his signature upwards inflection to throw you off the scent.
The topic up for discussion was Andrew Horton’s photograph of spikes in the ground outside a block of flats, an apparent deterrent to the homeless. The photo caused immediate outrage on social media, now I love the propensity that social media has for sparking vigilante action, but this is all going to prove slightly embarrassing if it turns out the spikes are something totally innocent like a modern art installation or some kind of free dagger sharpening device.
Nobody seems to have been able to track the architect of misery down, but already he/she’s been condemned to future homelessness and subject to a fair amount of disgust by what Katie Hopkins has called the ‘outrage bus’ on Twitter. One tweet read “The best outcome of those people putting anti-homeless spikes down would be for them suddenly to be beset by a plague of Indian fakirs” which is a very specific punishment. Anyway, I’d rather be on that outrage bus with the fakirs than a jumbo jet with Katie Hopkins anywhere in the vicinity, but that’s besides the point.
The reason that JV got to exercise his full range though, was because there really has been a polarised set of opinions banded about since the news broke via Horton’s original facebook post. Homeless gentlemen are already subject to the arsenal of a hurtful vocabulary from the general public, it’s been all to easy for people to dismiss these ‘tramps’ and ‘hobos’ as if they were somehow a different species. People who probably wouldn’t usually use the word ‘pissing’ are paying particular attention to them 'pissing' all over their hypothetical front doorsteps. Well everyone knows what you’re up to when you walk into Marks and Spencer’s alone anyway so what’s the point in trying to piss anywhere else in the middle of the day?
It was suggested on the Radio 2 programme that a less unsightly deterrent, already in existence, could be used, perhaps a strategically placed flower bed. That revelation about the true purpose of pansies made me look at my home town’s success in the ‘Britain in Bloom’ competition in a whole new light.
It’s such an English approach, to tastefully disguise a blockade for the down and out as a flower bed, it almost makes the alternative spiky version seem a bit more commendable, at least the vagabonds aren’t being fooled about.
What’s interesting is that these measures have apparently been in place for years, many of the outrage may have innocently walked past the spikes themselves and not given them a second thought. Maybe they were ironically too busy checking their Twitter feed at the time, is this an indication that the internet is the only thing that can propel a cause into the collective consciousness, and is that necessarily a bad thing?
A lot of us will be sympathising with the homeless because we know all too well, in this economic climate, it could easily be us. We reach out to them with outrage from the comfort of our own homes, but they’re probably not likely to ever find out about our selfless sympathetic nature from where they’re sitting. One of the most shared pieces in support of the spikes was from an ex homeless outreach worker, she could see the benefit of getting the homeless out from the cold, whatever the mechanism.
The two things I find most uncomfortable about the idea behind the spikes are that firstly; these could be installed in blocks of flats thus implicating hundreds of people who might not agree with them, and secondly, these people are capable of speech - installing the same sort of device used against pigeons on rooftops implies they are beyond reason. So don’t impale your neighbour, talk to him perhaps and get him help, but remember that he is your neighbour even though there’s bricks and mortar between you.