Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Aggressive Should we be in Tackling Homelessness Downtown?

Today's post is more of an open discussion. One of our readers (hat-tip to Daniel) submitted an article about urban design tools being used to drive away the homeless in cities around the world such as London, Tokyo, and Montreal. These range from spikes in the ground to prevent the homeless from sleeping in certain locations to uncomfortable seats that discourage loitering beyond a quick rest.

After reading the article (link below), please let us know what you think. Are these cruel or do we need to move in this direction to reduce homelessness Downtown?

Source: The Atlantic


  1. I much prefer this solution, which points people toward help, and is humane.

    Our area is so expensive, it is far too easy to slip down the ladder to homelessness. I don't enjoy sharing public transit and parks with homeless people, it makes me feel unsettled to see poverty, to see unwellness, and sometimes is feels less than safe. But my discomfort is not more important than these people's right to exist. They need help. They need somewhere safe to sleep, and driving them off into the waterways or under bridges does nothing but allow the problems to fester.

    And as a person who often gathers with friends in plazas, parks and city streets to engage in various activities, I don't want these inhumane structures interfering with my own ability to fully enjoy public spaces.

  2. Personally, I think you need a combination of both–and police enforcement. Poli Sci 101. If there is no one to enforce it, the problem remains largely the same, especially because I can see the same battle being played out here in SJ, i.e. "spike placed here" countered by "shelter bench ad" placed there. IF there is a police task force READY and ON THE BALL to help with the more aggressive measures, it can work. Yet the 'FORCE' part has to be accompanied by a civic effort to provide resources that draw folks AWAY from the downtown area. We need FORCE and a COMMITMENT TO USING INSTITUTIONAL POLICE FORCE (not as in violence) as well as a civic component. My two cents. I don't want to "not see poverty" but downtown San Jose is just disgusting–the santa clara and 1st corner, need I say more? As for those who say "business will drive homelessness away" all I can say is: that is completely ridiculous. It can help DRAW in indigence; I mean, look at the crazy success of CREAM and all the restaurants on that row, yet its THE WORST HOMELESSNESS in the downtown are. And, of course, St. James. Anyhow, starting to ramble to I"ll leave it at that. S

  3. Question how much money it costs to install these effed up anti-homeless spikes? Because i hear that its free to force the same effed up a-hole to have them removed...haha

  4. Well, let's compare the situation to San Francisco. SF is crawling with homeless of the scream-in-your-face-and-poop-in-the-street variety, and yet the young hip IT crowd for whom the Google buses are chartered *still* vastly prefer living there over the South Bay. So maybe if the goal is to appeal to a young (and wealthy) demographic for which a "gritty" urban environment is a fair price to pay for more cultural vitality, having some homeless around isn't the worst problem in the world. On the other hand, if it's soccer moms and a "family friendly" atmosphere that you want, then by all means let's bolt down the spike benches.

  5. I think you should try living on the streets for a few months, with no money or shelter or food and post again only if you survive that time.

  6. The other week I grabbed some lunch from Safeway Market & went to go find a bench to eat it on in the plaza near the Rep Theatre. But all the benches were gone?!? So I carried on along the plaza to the benches near Muji... they were gone too! I ended up having to go all the way to Caesar Chavez park to find somewhere to sit & eat! Is that an anti-homeless measure from the city?

    1. Yes I believe so. It has worked quite well though. The area around rep/whispers was heavily saturated with transient population, drug users, free loaders... Not nearly so much now since the benches were removed.