I walk past 118 Southwark Bridge Road on my way to work. It’s a pretty typical block of private flats. About ten days ago I noticed they’d put some studs into the ground near the sheltered entrance. After a while it occurred to me that these were probably* installed to prevent homeless people sleeping rough.
*yes they were.
Such a vile thought was enough for me to get my phone out and snap a picture. Let’s just see what my Facebook friends think, I thought…
Within 48 hours my photos of these ‘anti-homeless studs’ had been shared 26,000 times on Twitter (stat via topsy.com); been picked up by all the major UK newspapers and broadcasters online; I’d been interviewed by the PA and The Telegraph, appeared on Sky News, and invited to be appear live on LBC radio.
My story had gone viral…
Sky journalist, Siobhan Robbins, asked me what I wanted to see happen now. Would I want to see the studs removed? Yes! But more than that, I want to like to see something bigger happen.
I don’t want this to just be seen as ‘socially unacceptable’
I’d like it to be ‘legally unacceptable’ as well.
Why can’t we legislate against this?
That would be the real victory
There’s no victory without ‘change’
I don’t want this to just go down as a ‘twitter outrage’ story, studied by journalism students across the country – here today, but forgotten tomorrow.
If we’re serious about trying to transform this country for the good, then we can start by looking after our most vulnerable. Not just retweeting about it, actually doing something greater.
For me that involves thinking, speaking and serving. Figuring out, ‘who is my neighbour?’ then trying to take small personal steps towards honouring my convictions, honouring one another, and in doing so honouring God.
Some have argued that it’s not illegal to put studs on private property – that business or property owners have a right to prevent rough sleepers who may leave a mess or be an eyesore to some. But what’s the thinking behind putting studs there? Surely some nice plants would suffice, look less ugly and, most importantly not send out an offensive message.
We’re not going to solve the homelessness problem in our towns and cities by creating physical deterrents to sleeping rough. There are other options!
Ironically, I’ve been pretty bad at stopping to speak to homeless people or helping them out. A month or so ago I was really cut up after a guy came up to me and asked me for some money and I said ‘sorry, I’m about to catch a lift somewhere’. I walked away and turned around to see him crying against the railings of the train station. I resolved to not be so ineffective next time. Little did I know that this anti-homeless studs story would be such a positive step forward on that journey.
‘The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want…’ Mark 14:7 (NIV)
‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8 (NIV)
Posted by Andrew Horton
See some positive work being done to tackle poverty in the UK in this short video ‘The Lighthouse // Woking’