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Vancouver gives classy response to London's anti-homeless spikes

Vancouver's thought-provoking response to other cities' anti-homeless architecture: a public bench that doubles as a temporary shelter from rain. 

Photo from Spring Advertising

There's been a lot of buzz recently about "hostile architecture" since activists poured concrete over anti-homeless spikes outside a supermarket in London. The metal spikes, which the store said were to prevent people from smoking and drinking outside, were clearly put in to discourage homeless people from sleeping outside the store.

A surge of 'hostile' design has spread to cities around the world, made to prevent not only sleeping in public spaces, but also skateboarding and loitering. In addition to metal spikes in the ground, public benches in large cities are often designed in ways to make it impossible for the homeless to sleep.

Metal spikes outside a London apartment, to prevent people from sleeping on the ground.

Photo of bench in Tokyo by Yumiko Hayakawa. 

In response, Vancouver's RainCity Housing installed "pop up shelters" across the city that look like an ordinary bench. In the evening, the bench illuminates, and unfolds to provide shelter from the rain. 

Images from Spring Advertising 

The bench -- designed by Spring Advertising -- is printed with UV letters that react with sunlight and read “This is a bench” during daytime. At night, glow-in-the-dark letters read “This is a bedroom”.  The bench has RainCity's website and address information directing homeless people to the shelter.

The benches come at an especially welcome time, when numbers of Vancouver's homeless are rising -- in April, data showed that the City now has more homeless people than at any point in its history, at 538 people. The creative bench/shelters have been praised by media such as The Independent and Mic.

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