The Issue With Public Space and Homelessness

When we think of public space, we often are reminded of open spaces that are given to us freely for us to enjoy, like parks or gardens. For the majority of us, we take these spaces for granted. We are allowed to sit and enjoy it as we please, but what we aren’t seeing is the restriction of the same uses for the homeless. We do not see the subtle ways the government is trying to restrict the homeless from sleeping or staying at certain places like the dividers on park/bus benches, or the spikes on certain ledges to keep people from sitting on them. There are even some park benches that have spikes in them until you pay for them to be removed for a certain period of time so you can comfortably sit on it (as shown below). The government states, as shown in “No Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in US Cities” by the National Coalition for the homeless, that these precautions are taken so that these people are less likely to chose homelessness. If the government makes life harder for these people, then perhaps they won’t want to be homeless anymore. This, however, is often not the case. Most of these laws criminalizing the homeless come from the belief that if they were to strike down on the homeless, then the tourist business in the cities would increase, allowing for more profit to those certain cities. The methods that these laws use are unfortunately expensive and infringe on the human rights of these people instead of doing what the government wants which is increase tourism and decrease the amount of people on the streets. In this article by the New York Times speaks about how difficult it is to find a safe space in Honululu, as more and more homeless people are recieving tickets for spending the night at certain spaces. There are even laws passed now that prohibit people from sleeping in their own cars, and it seems difficult to believe that these laws are for the benefit of the homeless, that they are implemented so that the homeless would be nudged into a better life instead of working for the agenda of the city to rid the eyesores before the tourists come in. With gentrification and the rise of housing costs, it is difficult for these people to obtain affordable housing, and with these laws passed, it is more difficult for them to find a safe space to stay the night.

Assignment 4-8, Public Space, ,


  1. It’s terrible that there are so many laws, that criminalize homeless people, when they really aren’t crimes, they’re just “crimes”because of the laws they decided to make. When I read about all the different laws, I thought it was so ridiculous. What do they expect homeless people to do? Public space, isn’t really truly public, because it is not open for absolutely everyone, to use the space, because of the fact that they criminalize people for certain things, and it tends to criminalize homeless people who have no where else to go necessarily.

  2. I somewhat agree with the points made here about the idea that the government is attempting ways of making it more and more difficult for homeless people to be almost anywhere in many cities, but where I disagree is that the government is trying to do this to make it so that people are “less likely to choose homelessness”. I do agree that it is becoming more and more difficult for the homeless to be anywhere in cities now because the government does try to keep them out of public spaces to avoid having them scare away tourists to make more money. I don’t agree with the notion that the government implements difficulties for the homelessness to make them less likely to choose homelessness. Nobody is choosing to be homeless. People who are homeless and wandering around cities looking for a place to sit or sleep for the night are obviously not happy with their situation, and definitely did not choose to live that way. The fact that someone is homeless means they are struggling mightily in their life, and then having rules enforced around them preventing them from sitting in a public space or sleeping in their car is only making things harder for them make changes in their life, and is certainly not going to make anybody think differently about their apparent choice to be homeless.

  3. I agree with most of your point you made. It really is almost impossible for homeless people to find the safe space to stay the night when the housing costs are rising and people are having difficulties obtain affordable housing. Also the idea that the states just want to increase the tourism and decrease the amount of people on the streets by infringe on the human rights of them got me really mad. I feel like these government are too busy to think about something to benefit them and they are not caring about any other human being other than themselves. How can we call this a public space when not everyone can comfortably using it. To hear that some park benches has spikes really made me think about the definition of public space again.

Comments are closed.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar