Homeless

Book Review: Callous Objects: Designs Against the Homeless by Robert Rosenberger

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/09/2018 - 8:45pm in

In Callous Objects: Designs Against the HomelessRobert Rosenberger explores the growth of ‘hostile architecture’ and reflects on what it suggests about society’s attitudes towards the homelesss as well as our relationship with contemporary design. This short, vivid and novel book serves as a timely reminder that our public spaces are not experienced equally, writes Jon Dean

Callous Objects: Designs Against the Homeless. Robert Rosenberger. University of Minnesota Press. 2017.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Last year in England, it was estimated that 4,800 people slept rough. This was 15 per cent higher than in 2016, and more than 60 per cent higher than in 2010 when the Conservative-led Coalition government came to power. Given that one of the understated successes of the Labour government had been the dramatic reduction in homelessness since the millennium, current homelessness statistics, and the increased visibility of roofless populations in towns and cities across the UK, is perhaps one of the clearest markers of the poor state of British society and the health of our public morality. While the current government have taken some initial steps to tackle the problem, when the relatively tiny amount of money assigned by the Homelessness Reduction Act (around £71m) is spread thinly among Local Authorities it will do little to address the root causes of homelessness: namely, benefits sanctions, poorly-paid and precarious work and the mental health crisis.

Society’s disdain for the homeless is also revealed by the growth of what is known as hostile architecture, most viscerally represented by the small metal spikes set into the marble or concrete under cover around buildings, particularly office blocks and new luxury flats. These spikes are put there to deter homeless people (specifically the roofless and unhoused) from lying there, to either beg for money or to sleep. Robert Rosenberger’s new book, Callous Objects, seeks to document the growth of such hostile architecture and how it works, as well as to unpick what it suggests both about our relationship to modern design and to homelessness.

Rosenberger, a philosopher of technology who writes about the mundane everyday objects of urban life, contributes Callous Objects as part of a series of short interventions seeking to turn blogs and conference papers into longer, more considered pieces of work, where authors are encouraged to think out loud and draw ideas together. Very reasonably priced and easy to read, this book compiles examples of simple technologies that have been designed to deter rough sleepers.

Image Credit: ‘Hostile architecture’ in Marseille, France (DC CC BY SA 3.0)

Rosenberger is particularly interested in benches: a low-tech device that has multiple public uses, some of which (sitting, stretching during a run) are considered good, and others of which (sleeping) are considered bad. Rosenberger documents how this simple design – a straight flat piece of wood or metal – has frequently been adapted to make it impossible to lie down or sleep on. Think of bus shelter benches that are thin and tilted, designed for perching rather than sitting, or benches with big solid arm rests in between designated seats. Whereas once a bus shelter would offer an unhoused person plausible deniability – ‘I wasn’t sleeping, I was merely waiting for a bus’ – now it is the designers and city planners who have the deniability – ‘It’s not that we don’t care about the homeless, we just think the bench is better with arms to separate sitting people.’

Readers will find a host of examples from across the world of such design – from Amsterdam, to Tokyo, to the London Underground and cities across the US and Canada. Rosenberger has photographed and documented the precise ways in which each technology plays a mediating role in the experience of urban life, and serves to make the lives of the roofless more difficult.

This analysis is extended from spikes and benches to how public bins work, with bin design reflecting their fraught social status. Rosenberger shows how designers around the world have made it much harder for people to use bins for anything else but disposing of litter. Such restrictive design modifications – where non-solid sides mean they can’t be used by graffiti artists, and locks and tight lids mean those seeking to look through the rubbish cannot access them – demonstrate how designers have thought about what is and isn’t ‘acceptable’ usage.

The book discusses this through Latourian Actor Network Theory, and taps into ontological debates around the multistability of everyday artefacts. This theory is carried lightly through the book, which will appeal both to social researchers in associated fields and the generally morally-concerned. Rosenberger also documents several ways in which people, particularly artists and activists, are fighting back against such public artefacts. The satirical ‘Pay & Sit’ bench by Fabian Brunsig (2008), where metal spikes protruding through a bench retract when a coin is deposited into a slot, is both a deeply chilling insight into a neoliberal future for public services and spaces, but also serves to demonstrate the wide range of critical responses to such defensive and hostile architecture.

This short, vivid and novel book serves as a timely reminder that our public spaces are not experienced equally – hostile architecture seeks to make some of our fellow citizens unwelcome in public spaces. All technologies have multiple uses; social and political forces will always try to limit choice when it comes to these, and we have to pay attention to how this happens in the most mundane ways.

Jon Dean is a lecturer in politics and sociology at Sheffield Hallam University. He received his PhD from the University of Kent, focusing on the role of social class in youth volunteering. He writes about charity, inequality and creative qualitative research methods. Read more reviews by Jon Dean.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


When tenants ‘graduate’ from Housing First programs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/09/2018 - 12:59am in

Over at the Research Blog of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, I’ve written a ‘top 10’ overview of a study on which I’m co-author. It essentially asks the question: “When homeless people are placed into subsidized housing with social work support, for how many months/years do they require that social work support?”

The study relies on an impressive data set about ex-homeless people who’ve been placed into subsidized housing with social work support in Calgary. Methodologically, the study uses survival analysis and hazard models.

The blog post can be accessed here.

When tenants ‘graduate’ from Housing First programs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/09/2018 - 12:59am in

Over at the Research Blog of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, I’ve written a ‘top 10’ overview of a study on which I’m co-author. It essentially asks the question: “When homeless people are placed into subsidized housing with social work support, for how many months/years do they require that social work support?”

The study relies on an impressive data set about ex-homeless people who’ve been placed into subsidized housing with social work support in Calgary. Methodologically, the study uses survival analysis and hazard models.

The blog post can be accessed here.

Homeless Man Spends Night Sleeping In CEO’s Mansion To Get Authentic Feel Of What It’s Like To Have Bags Of Money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/08/2018 - 8:31am in

Tags 

Business, CEO, Homeless, SBS

Mosman Mansion.jpg

A homeless Sydney man has described spending the night snoozing cosily in a $10 million Mosman mansion as part of the annual Vinnies Tramp Sleepin as a sobering experience.

“I’ve got a newfound admiration for how tough it is to have so much choice of what to watch on your wide screen tv,” said long term rough sleeper Phillip Hartnell. “Initially I curled up to sleep in the doorway of the bedroom before realising I was supposed to bunk down on top of the bed under the goose feather doona.”

Participants coped with a full night in the indoors with only a complimentary pair of silk pyjamas to wear and a fridge full of Bollinger to keep them nourished.

“At one point in the night a chill wind swept through the house and I had to flop my hand out from under the doona to flick the electric blanket up a notch,” said a chastened Hartnell. “I’m really glad I took part in this, and not just for the opportunity it gave me to get some publicity for my “walking around the city pushing a trolley full of random pieces of bark” business. I’d be more than willing to take on a CEO as an apprentice.”

Hartnell’s night in the mansion finished at 6am with him being chased back out into the street by police officers who confirmed that there was no such charity event as the Vinnies Tramp Sleepin.

Peter Green
http://www.twitter.com/Greeny_Peter

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Carey Doberstein’s book on homelessness governance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/06/2018 - 8:53pm in

I’ve just reviewed Professor Carey Doberstein’s book on homelessness governance (UBC Press). The book looks at the way decisions were made pertaining to funding for homelessness programs in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto during the 1995-2015 period.

Points raised in my review include the following:

-Homelessness trends look quite different across the three cities. For example, it can be growing in one city, but declining in another.

-One of the book’s main arguments is that better decisions pertaining to homelessness programming are made when multiple stakeholders are engaged in decision-making early and often.

-The book argues that Vancouver and Calgary have done a relatively good job of such engagement—more so than Toronto.

My full review can be read here.

(A modified version of this review will appear in an upcoming edition of the Canadian Journal of Political Science.)

Carey Doberstein’s book on homelessness governance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/06/2018 - 8:53pm in

I’ve just reviewed Professor Carey Doberstein’s book on homelessness governance (UBC Press). The book looks at the way decisions were made pertaining to funding for homelessness programs in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto during the 1995-2015 period.

Points raised in my review include the following:

-Homelessness trends look quite different across the three cities. For example, it can be growing in one city, but declining in another.

-One of the book’s main arguments is that better decisions pertaining to homelessness programming are made when multiple stakeholders are engaged in decision-making early and often.

-The book argues that Vancouver and Calgary have done a relatively good job of such engagement—more so than Toronto.

My full review can be read here.

(A modified version of this review will appear in an upcoming edition of the Canadian Journal of Political Science.)

Saskatchewan budget misses opportunity on rental housing assistance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/05/2018 - 6:33am in

I recently wrote a ‘top 10’ overview blog post about the 2018 Saskatchewan budget. Following on the heels of that, I’ve now written an opinion piece about the budget’s announcement of a phase out a rental assistance program for low-income households.

Points raised in the opinion piece include the following:

-Across Saskatchewan, rental vacancy rates are unusually high right now, making this a good time to provide rental assistance to tenants for use in private units (indeed, right now it’s a so-called renter’s market in Saskatchewan, meaning it’s a relatively good time for tenants to negotiate rental agreements with private landlords).

-Thus, rather than phasing out the program, it would have been sensible to have expanded it.

-Phasing it out will very possibly lead to more homelessness, which in turn may lead lead to higher public costs elsewhere (especially to the health care sector).

Interestingly, just yesterday the Saskatchewan Landlord Association made many of these same points themselves; they like the rental assistance program, as it increases demand for its members’ housing units (many of which are currently sitting empty).

It’s of course also important for government to finance housing owned by non-profit entities. I recently wrote about the importance of a variety of measures to improve housing affordability in the housing chapter of this year’s Alternative Federal Budget.

Meanwhile, the link to my recent opinion piece is here.

 

Saskatchewan budget misses opportunity on rental housing assistance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/05/2018 - 6:33am in

I recently wrote a ‘top 10’ overview blog post about the 2018 Saskatchewan budget. Following on the heels of that, I’ve now written an opinion piece about the budget’s announcement of a phase out a rental assistance program for low-income households.

Points raised in the opinion piece include the following:

-Across Saskatchewan, rental vacancy rates are unusually high right now, making this a good time to provide rental assistance to tenants for use in private units (indeed, right now it’s a so-called renter’s market in Saskatchewan, meaning it’s a relatively good time for tenants to negotiate rental agreements with private landlords).

-Thus, rather than phasing out the program, it would have been sensible to have expanded it.

-Phasing it out will very possibly lead to more homelessness, which in turn may lead lead to higher public costs elsewhere (especially to the health care sector).

Interestingly, just yesterday the Saskatchewan Landlord Association made many of these same points themselves; they like the rental assistance program, as it increases demand for its members’ housing units (many of which are currently sitting empty).

It’s of course also important for government to finance housing owned by non-profit entities. I recently wrote about the importance of a variety of measures to improve housing affordability in the housing chapter of this year’s Alternative Federal Budget.

Meanwhile, the link to my recent opinion piece is here.

 

Ten things to know about the 2018 Saskatchewan budget

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/04/2018 - 4:13am in

I’ve written a ‘top 10’ blog post about the recently-tabled Saskatchewan budget. Points raised in the blog post include the following:

-This year’s budget was quite status quo.

-Last year’s budget, by contrast, included a series of cuts to social spending. Last year’s budget also announced cuts to both personal and corporate income taxes that were subsequently reversed.

-Saskatchewan has one of the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios in Canada.

-This recent budget announced the phase out of a rent supplement program that helps low-income households afford rent on the private market.

Here’s the link to the full blog post.

Ten things to know about the 2018 Saskatchewan budget

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/04/2018 - 4:13am in

I’ve written a ‘top 10’ blog post about the recently-tabled Saskatchewan budget. Points raised in the blog post include the following:

-This year’s budget was quite status quo.

-Last year’s budget, by contrast, included a series of cuts to social spending. Last year’s budget also announced cuts to both personal and corporate income taxes that were subsequently reversed.

-Saskatchewan has one of the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios in Canada.

-This recent budget announced the phase out of a rent supplement program that helps low-income households afford rent on the private market.

Here’s the link to the full blog post.

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