In a civilised society, homelessness would be seen as a problem. In ours, the homeless are seen as the problem. The housing campaign Shelter find “Homelessness is still viewed by many as the result of personal failings”. In fact Crisis, the national charity for young single homeless people, says much of the massive rise in homelessness is because of a “lack of affordable housing; high levels of poverty, unemployment or worklessness; the way in which the benefits system operates; and the way social housing is rationed” — All of these are direct consequences of government policies motivated by an ideology that says what is public should be privatised and where there is no profit there is no worth.
Not everyone who is homeless sleeps rough on the streets, although those who do are the most vulnerable and visible people affected by the crisis. Their presence in plain sight is a poke in the eye to the narrative of the content, consumer society. So, it is the homeless, not homelessness that is tackled.
In this photo essay, I wanted to look at how the city itself is turned on those of its citizens who live on its streets. For a number of reasons, I did not photograph people who were sleeping rough or begging – the most visible and obvious would be invisible. Instead I showed so called ‘defensive architecture’. This includes measures such as CCTV, limited, uncomfortable seating and most infamously, ‘anti-homeless spikes’ – metal studs set into doorways making it impossible to shelter or sleep in them.
An article in by Alex Andreou for The Guardian argued:
“Defensive architecture is revealing on a number of levels, because it is not the product of accident or thoughtlessness, but a thought process. It is a sort of unkindness that is considered, designed, approved, funded and made real with the explicit motive to exclude and harass. It reveals how corporate hygiene has overridden human considerations, especially in retail districts. It is a symptom of the clash of private and public, of necessity and property.”