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Quick facts – From annoying sings to spikes in doorways, eight ways cities shun the homeless

New York City, US
Thomson Reuters Foundation

While homeless people are among the most vulnerable to the kind of ferocious heat that scorched Europe in June and is blasting US cities this week, officials have adopted some novel approaches to pushing them out.

Although some cities have made strides for homeless populations, others concerned with public health, tourism and image have taken steps to drive away or criminalise people living on the street, who make up about 25 per cent of the world’s urban population, according to the United Nations.

Here are eight ways cities and urban businesses shun the homeless:

1. The West Palm Beach, Florida, parks department has put a new spin on playing music, hoping to deter loitering by playing children’s songs all night long to keep people from sleeping by a park pavilion until trespassing laws can be enforced.

2. Cities across Europe, from London to Hamburg, are seeing more so-called “hostile architecture”, such as arm rests dividing benches and metal spikes placed in doorways to discourage sleeping.

3. Capetown, South Africa, has seen an increase in complaints about fines issued to homeless people this summer owing to enforcement of a 2007 bylaw that prohibits bathing or urinating in public, erecting a shelter or starting a fire in an unauthorised area or blocking pedestrian traffic.

4. In 2018, a car park in a wealthy Paris neighbourhood raised eyebrows when cold water was sprayed on anyone without a resident’s permit to prevent the homeless from seeking shelter. A bookstore in New York City, a luxury auction house in California and a salon in Britain also drew public outcry for using sprinklers to deter sidewalk sleepers.

5. Parliament approved a law in 2018 banning sleeping in public streets in Hungary, increasing the penalty from a fine to an arrest and confiscation of property for those who refuse a shelter or work programs.

6. Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur has banned soup kitchens within two miles of the city centre, where more than 1,000 people are homeless and others who live in poverty rely on kitchens for daily meals.

7. An “urban camping” ban in Denver, Colorado in the United States bars homeless people from using tents, sleeping bags, bed-rolls and blankets to protect themselves from the elements.

8. In 2018, towns in Sweden banned begging, following the leads of Greece and Romania.

Sources: Reuters, European Parliament, US Interagency Council on Homelessness, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, European Federation of National Associations Working with the Homeless.


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