Anti-home­less mea­sures in out­door spa­ces be­com­ing a grow­ing con­cern,


A bar struc­ture pre­vent­ing home­less peo­ple from sleep­ing on top of a vent out­side Toronto Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal is the lat­est ex­am­ple of a grow­ing phe­nom­e­non dubbed “hos­tile ar­chi­tec­ture,” anti-home­less­ness ad­vo­cates say.

From arm­rests on benches to studs on con­crete, such de­signs pre­vent peo­ple from us­ing the space in a way other than its in­tended use. That in­cludes home­less peo­ple seek­ing a safe place to spend the night. In a state­ment re­leased Wed­nes­day, Dr. Char­lie Chan, in­terim pres­i­dent and CEO of the Univer­sity Health Net­work said the grate was re­moved after staff raised con­cerns that it wasn’t some­thing a hos­pi­tal should have in­stalled.

It’s far from the first time hos­tile ar­chi­tec­ture has pro­voked ire. In­stal­la­tions in Montreal and Lon­don, Eng­land, as well as a planter on a down­town Toronto side­walk have also made head­lines.

Cathy Crowe, a Toronto street nurse and long-time ad­vo­cate for the home­less, doc­u­ments in­stances of hos­tile ar­chi­tec­ture she said she en­coun­ters around the city. She said it is “ev­ery­where.”

“There’s hardly ever a park bench that’s de­vel­oped nowa­days that doesn’t have bars in it,” Crowe said.

Pa­tri­cia An­der­son, man­ager of Shel­ter, Sup­port and Hous­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Toronto, told the Star that the City doesn’t have struc­tures that de­lib­er­ately pre­vent home­less peo­ple from sleep­ing out­side.

Grow­ing in­stances of hos­tile ar­chi­tec­ture across Canada have raised the ques­tion of what re­spon­si­bil­ity — if any — in­sti­tu­tions have to the peo­ple sleep­ing, loi­ter­ing and pan­han­dling on their prop­erty.

Stephen Hwang, a Toronto physi­cian and re­searcher, said he thinks “there is no obli­ga­tion that in­sti­tu­tions have to al­low peo­ple to sleep on their pri­vate prop­erty.

“But cer­tainly to think that, as a mat­ter of want­ing to have a civil and car­ing so­ci­ety, we don’t want to essen­tially force peo­ple out of places where they are sleep­ing out of ne­ces­sity,” Hwang said.

In the past, au­thor­i­ties would re­move peo­ple that were sleep­ing or loi­ter­ing, said Cara Chellew, a re­search ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Global Subur­banisms Project at York Univer­sity.

“But now, we’re us­ing the built en­vi­ron­ment to do these con­tro­ver­sial tasks.”

The hos­pi­tal grate was in­stalled to pre­vent the col­lec­tion of garbage and used nee­dles nearby, UHN spokesper­son Gil­lian Howard said.

“I think our obli­ga­tion is to pro­vide care for peo­ple who seek care and ac­cess to that care is through the emer­gency depart­ment,” Howard said.

“We def­i­nitely see that as a re­spon­si­bil­ity. The is­sue of solv­ing some­one’s home­less­ness is a much big­ger is­sue than the hos­pi­tal can solve. We’re a part of it, but it re­ally is go­ing to take a much more con­certed ef­fort on the part of the city and other agen­cies.”

The grate was in­stalled to pre­vent the col­lec­tion of garbage and used nee­dles nearby, UHN says

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