I stumbled upon this short video by Stephane Argillet and Gilles Paté showing how cities and particularly the French capital Paris adopt anti-homeless policies through their urban furnitures.
We probably never noticed that, but metallic spikes, concrete blocks, gardens made out of gravels, pebbles and cactus or even benches with armrests could be the instruments of the anti-homeless policy, disguised under the name of design. Arnaud Elfort and Guillaume Schaller, 2 artists and activists from the collective “survival group”, photographed all those “traps” as a silent response to demonstrate their impact on the urban space. This transformation first started about 10 years ago in the metro stations when they replaced the benches with individual seats, making it harder for homeless to sleep. These measures are not only reserved to Paris but are adopted in almost all European cities. Budapest has recently joined the tide. On September 30, 2013, at the edge of the coldest winter within a century, Hungary has passed a law allowing authorities to expel homeless from certain neighborhoods and even destroy their shelters[i]. Some might think these measures are reasonable and justifiable as governors work on promoting the touristic image of their city as a nice safe and shiny environment, pretending to fight poverty and precarity just by hiding it. But from a humanitarian point of view, this is unacceptable. They’d better work on real effective social programs.
On the other hand, that reminded me of Curro Claret’s church bench that was able to transform into a bed, the exact antithesis of those street furnitures. As churches in the past have remained open for 24 hours providing sanctuary for pilgrims, victims of war and the homeless, Claret’s furniture seeks to reflect the church of today as a place of refuge to mark this historic contribution.