People would rather protect property than people.
Searching for shelter at night can be very difficult and a constant struggle for homeless people, but the winter weather in the majority of the U.S. makes this feat even harder. As subzero temperatures plague cities nightly, homeless people look for any way to stay warm but cities across the country are essentially putting up roadblocks to discourage the homeless from camping in certain areas.
In one such example, a Reddit post revealed that St. Louis city officials had allegedly put bolts over vents in the sidewalk to prevent homeless people from laying on them for warmth. The vent emits hot steam that is perfect for freezing people with nowhere to go, but also presents a problem when it becomes completely covered.
City officials stated that these bolts were put in place by someone who owns private property nearby and were later removed, but it’s a perfect example of how people view homeless as a nuisance and will, at their own expense, attempt to keep them from being comfortable and safe.
This instance isn’t the only of its kind, either. In 2014, an image of a cage installed around vents circulated because people stated that Cardiff University had installed the cage as a way to “design out” homeless people. The university claimed that deterring the homeless was not their intent and said it was instead for health and safety reasons. Students didn’t believe the university and were upset that their tuition was being used for something that they didn’t see as a problem. One student said he only saw homeless people there at night on three evenings each week during the winter and that they were always gone in the morning, posing no threat to students.
While covering up vents is a huge problem, an even bigger issue for homeless people is when cities completely ban sleeping in public places. Some properties put other defenses around common sleeping areas, like the spikes in this safe corner pictured in the image below.
It may be easy to say that homeless people should simply take refuge in a shelter at night, but during the winter these shelters become quite full and must turn away some people. Not every person is even aware of where shelters are or are able to make their way to one every single night, not to mention the ailments that affect some living on the streets and prevent them from getting care, such as mental illness and addiction. This was the case of a 34-year-old homeless woman who was described as “very mentally ill” and was outside during an ice storm when giving birth; her newborn died within hours from the terrible cold.
It’s difficult to ourselves in the shoes of the homeless if we have never lived on the streets before and much more productive to practice compassion and understanding than to blame homeless people for their plight and unfortunate circumstances.
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