An Easy-To-Miss Problem With A Rainbow Park Bench Sparked An Important Conversation

"The only option we give homeless people is to keep walking.”

When Twitter user Isaac Azuelos tweeted out a picture of what at first glance appeared to be a harmless bench, it turned out to shine a lot on a much larger issue.

Azuelos shared a photo of an Alberta, Canada bench painted in rainbow colors. To the naked eye, the photo appeared to celebrate the LGBTQ community, but the bench is in reality an example of hostile architecture. 

His tweet read: "When you're inclusive, but still hate the poor."

Hostile architecture is a type of design used in urban areas to discourage members of the public from using public spaces in ways those spaces were not intended to be used. Among the more common examples of hostile architecture is building benches that can be used for sitting or resting, but not for sleeping. This practice is an apparent attempt at keeping people who are homeless from sleeping on the benches.

HostileDesign.org puts a finer point on it, describing hostile architecture as "designs made specifically to exclude, harm or otherwise hinder the freedom of a human being. Quite often they aim to remove a certain section of a community from a public space." That "certain section of the community" is quite often people who are homeless.

According to a report from The Daily Dot, Springboard Performance, the local dance collective that oversees the park, reached out to Azuelos to explain that the collective does not "uphold the principles of hostile or exclusionary design." The bench was a gift.

In an effort to combat such "design crimes" and raise awareness about the subtle yet serious issue, HostileDesign.org created a sticker project. The stickers allow participants to place the sticker on hostile designs. 

#hostiledesign 🤮

A post shared by Pouletn728120 (@phlpdo) on

Advocates shared more photos of "design crimes" in their own community on Twitter. 

The Western Regional Advocacy Project also aims to advocate for the rights of homeless people. 

"People are being criminalized for sitting or sleeping in public spaces," Jonathan, a spokesperson for the Western Regional Advocacy Project said in a March interview with Urbo.

"If you don't want people using a public space, don't call it a public space. That kind of defeats the purpose of it," he told Urbo. "It's very expensive to be poor, especially with the vagrancy laws all over. You get a ticket for sitting too long, for sleeping in a car. The only option we give homeless people is to keep walking."

Cover image via Shutterstock / Andrew F. Kazmierski.

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