The hatred for the homeless population and other groups labeled as “undesirables” runs deep throughout American society. This animosity establishes itself in ways many people don’t recognize. From benches with dividers to blue lights, people have been fighting for ways to keep their environments clean of certain groups. These designs have become known as hostile architectures. 

What is hostile architecture?

Hostile architecture, also known as defensive architecture, is a design strategy that limits the use of public spaces. For instance, slanted benches, segmented benches, and curved benches all work to prevent people from sleeping on them. Certain lights or even a type of music can also be used to deter certain populations. Essentially, it is an element that works to keep away certain people. 

Advanced hostile designs

As technology advances, so does its uses. One of the more advanced instances of hostile architecture is blue light. While at first, it may not seem like much, it is an attempt to prevent drug users from using. The blue light makes veins less visible in order to stop people from using drugs in these spaces. 

Researchers found that this doesn’t stop many drug users, and instead, they will try more risky places to inject themselves. This includes their genitalia and the neck as entry points for the needle. Peter Hess, the writer for Inverse, brings up a good point by stating that if drug users are injecting drugs at a grocery store bathroom, then blue light probably won’t deter their motivation.

However, there is proof that in certain cases the blue light is effective. The use of this light in places like Philadelphia found that it led to no overdoses in their stores, and it also made it safer for employees who have to clean the bathrooms. Despite this seeming like a good consequence, it creates a further stigma against drug users and addicts. Another problem that comes from this is that drug users continue to use drugs, but they are at more of a risk since they do not have a clean environment anymore. This may lead to infections and other health problems. 

Those against the blue light argue that new bathrooms should be created where they are clean, sanitary spaces without crevices for hiding drugs is the best way to ensure the safety of everyone. However, that is a more expensive method, which turns many away.

The harmful impact

The main problem is that hostile architecture is frequently used to keep homeless people from interacting with these designs. It is stating “homeless are not welcome” as basic comforts, like sleeping spaces, are taken away. Rather than create a solution, defensive architecture creates more problems.  

The uncomfortable seating that prevents people from sitting too long on the benches harms both elderly and disabled people who cannot stand for long periods of time. It even creates an inconvenience to the average park goer who wants to sit down for a while.

It even limits those who want to spend a day at a museum or visit a government building as blockades and barriers that protect properties from attacks may limit access for wheelchair users. The average spacing for them is 3-5 feet, but certain wheelchairs can range from 21 inches to 40 inches wide. This means the more heavy-duty wheelchairs surpass the 3 feet requirement, limiting them from access points where these barriers are spaced at the minimum. 

Hidden hostility DC

Hidden Hostility DC is a notable website that’s working to educate people about hostile architecture. A big part of what they do is track this architecture all over Washington, D.C. They ask their readers to send them pictures of hostile architecture in D.C. to show how common this issue is.

Another notable task they do is speak out about the challenges of defensive architecture. They break down why it’s happening, who’s impacted, and the response of the community. They even provide recent articles and academic research to further educate their readers about this problem. 

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