Monday, May 16, 2016

Hostile architecture, CPTED and the homeless

A homeless man sleeping rough - photo by Franco Folini - Creative Commons

How often have we watched the bamboozled scientist in a dystopian horror film claiming: I am only the inventor of the new robot … I’m not responsible for how it is used! as we watch that robot trash the laboratory into smithereens?

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design - CPTED - is a powerful crime prevention technology that is vulnerable to misuse by the ill-trained or the untrained, especially regarding homelessness.

Last year the International CPTED Association ran a session on Homelessness and CPTED at its annual conference. The result was an ICA White Paper about CPTED and the homeless. Myself and Randall Atlas co-wrote the paper with the help of some dedicated ICA members. We submitted it to offer some practical and ethical guidelines to CPTED practitioners regarding homelessness.

Homelessness is a complex problem and using CPTED tactics is risky business. We are ethically responsible for how we use CPTED! That is why we wrote the ICA White Paper. Turns out, it was just in time.


Last week a news article Privatizing the Clearing of Homeless Encampments described what recently happened in Seattle when CPTED became hostile architecture. A private company was hired by the city to abate homeless encampments (Translation - trash their property). According the the news article, that company’s logo was: Let us help you develop a CPTED plan to help deter unwanted issues!

By no means do I diminish the impact of homelessness on residents and their families, but deter unwanted issues? Do we really consider homeless people the unwanted? Do we think they are best handled with metal anti-sleeping spikes? Are we really helping by target hardening them away from our park benches?

The news article tells the official story:
City officials say they offer the people they encounter shelter options. But they admit that only about 40 percent of people kicked out of illegal homeless encampments end up in city shelters—most are simply shunted to some other location.
Surely we can do better!

2 Replies so far - Add your comment

Anonymous said...

Hi Greg - I wondered how would I get a copy of the CPTED white paper? kind regards, Paul Cozens

Cathy Taylor said...

Folks might be interested in this training initiative we have in Calgary. In tended for businesses and community groups n the Centre City, one of the biggest users of the program have been security firms.