In early October, new benches were placed in downtown  Lincoln, Nebraska. Not the most aesthetically pleasing, these benches are unattractive in more way than one. As the Daily Nebraskan, our student-run newspaper asserts, “these new benches were designed to keep people from sleeping on them.” They are made of stone slabs and have two metal arms across them, leaving just enough room for someone to sit. The benches were designed to make the people of Lincoln more comfortable while downtown, as there have been reported increases in homelessness, lately.                

These benches are only part of a recent increase in measures targeting the homeless population in cities across the globe. In London, metal spikes have been placed in the cement to stop homeless individuals from sleeping in the streets. While benches adapted to make sleeping on them more difficult seem far less aggressive, both have the same goal of pushing homeless populations away from downtown city areas, leaving them with nowhere to go. 

The problems associated with these additions are twofold: first, they don’t place focus on the root of the cause and secondly, they attempt to criminalize homelessness. We will never tackle the problem of homelessness by simply placing studs in the pavement. We must address the root of the problem. 

There is a lack of available housing for homeless individuals, cuts to benefits for these people, and overall, a lack of awareness about the problem of homelessness. The National Alliance to End Homelessness, in their 2014 report on the state of homelessness in America, found that on a single night in January of 2013, 610,042 people experienced homelessness, many forced onto the streets for the night. While the number of homeless people is beginning to decrease, only when we look to the cause of this crisis, and start working towards helping those with nowhere to sleep, can we effectively solve the problem of people sleeping in the street. Spikes and benches are not the solution, housing and funding are.  

These benches and spikes are also problematic due to their nature. They all share the intent of removing homeless people from public spaces. As the Daily Nebraskan asserts, “The uncomfortable benches exist to make those people, people who live comfortable, more comfortable.” By placing a bench, or a spike, on the ground to make a passerby more comfortable, blame is only placed on the victim. Governments must reconsider these anti-homelessness measures, before every town is one where homeless are not welcome, leaving these people with even less.