Over the last year, many buildings have installed “anti-homeless” spikes like these to stop people sleeping in the streets. The spikes are appearing in major cities such as London and Manchester, outside shops and under bridges where homeless people usually sleep.


The shops and businesses believe that when homeless people sleep near their buildings, this gives a bad impression to customers and it might stop people entering the buildings.

Tselfridgeshese spikes were installed outside Selfridges, a luxury department store in Manchester, on the 1st December last year:

The store says it has installed these spikes because customers have complained that people who sat here smoked and left litter. This made the front of the shop look ugly.

The phenomenom of “defensive architecture” such as this is very controversial. Over 3,000 people have signed a petition to remove the spikes from Selfridges saying that these spikes are “inhumane” and that they will not help solve the problem of homelessness in the UK. It will only move the problem to a different place.

The Guardian newspaper says that this type of architecture is a type of apartheid: it stops homeless people living in public places. It makes them invisible to the rest of society.

Thespikeschina UK is not the only country to install “anti-homeless” architecture. Spikes are also used in China (photo below). In New York City a famous bookstore has used water sprinklers to get rid of homeless people from the front of the shop.

Story and photos from The Guardian and Manchester Evening News

Vocabulary: to install (v), homeless (adj), homelessness (n), department store (n), litter (n), inhumane (adj), apartheid (n), water sprinkler (n) to get rid of (phrasal verb).

 Comprehension Questions

1) Where have anti-homeless spikes been installed?

2) Why have buildings installed these spikes? What reason does Selfridges give?

3) Why are the spikes controversial?

4) What is the opinion of the Guardian newspaper?

Discussion Questions

1) What effect do you think these spikes will have on homeless people?

2) What effect do you think these spikes will have on society in general?

3) Do you think they are a good idea?

4) What ways do your government help homeless people?

5) How can we solve the problem of homelessness?