Anger at ‘anti-homeless’ bars installed on York benches

A man sleeps under the bars installed on a bench at a Rougier Street bus stop. Photograph: Jack Gevertz / YorkMix

‘Anti-homeless’ bars installed on benches in York have been branded “disgusting” and “sickening”.

Officials from the City of York Council took the decision to attach six metal bars to the two benches at the bus stop on Rougier Street after complaints were made about anti-social behaviour.

But the bars, which were put in place last week, have attracted anger from local residents and a nationwide charity for being seen to be ‘anti-homeless’.

Charlie Hind, 19, from Fishergate, called the move “disgusting”.

He’s been using the buses from the stop for the past three years to get to college, but had an “eye-roll moment” when he saw the bars attached to the benches on Monday morning (June 22).

He said:

I know the main priority in designing bus shelters has become stopping people from sleeping in them, but this is different. The council have gone out of their way to get these bars added to the bench.

I would like the council to remove them immediately and spend the money that would be saved by not placing bars like this in other places on shelters and programmes helping to tackle the homelessness problem in York, which has only grown in the last five years as more and more vulnerable people are having their benefits sanctioned.

After he posted about it on Facebook, Caitlynn Eckhardt called for direct action:

People need to take matters into their own hands and forcefully remove them… sickening

‘We are all human beings’

Yasmin Metcalfe, 18, from Clifton Moor, said that she was “extremely angry and upset” at the bars. She told YorkMix:

At the end of the day, we are all human beings regardless of our situations and in this day and age we all deserve the right to shelter and food at least.

I would like York council to realise they should really try and invest money on shelters and getting people help, instead of these ridiculous and upsetting attempts to make vulnerable people’s lives that bit harder.

Callum Shannon, 20, from Osbaldwick, added that he thought the situation was “deeply saddening”:

Instead of trying to tackle York’s housing crisis by building more affordable housing or by supporting departments within City of York Council – such as YorHome who do an excellent job creating sustainable tenancies in the private sector for people at risk of homelessness – the new administration has chosen to make things even harder for people who are already without a home.

It’s not only terrible, it won’t solve the problem.

‘This isn’t the answer’

A spokesperson for Crisis, a charity for single homeless people, said the situation was “all too common”. Jon Sparkes, the chief executive, said:

People in desperate circumstances deserve better than to be treated as a nuisance – they may have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse.

Turning our streets into hostile places for rough sleepers isn’t the answer. Instead we must deal with the causes.

The real issue here is the substantial rise in homelessness in recent years.

We desperately need more affordable homes as well as political action to fix our broken private rented sector. At the same time, we must have a safety net that genuinely reflects the reality of renting.

‘Deterring anti-social behaviour’

The new arms on the benches on Rougier Street. Photograph: Charlie Hind
The new arms on the benches on Rougier Street. Photograph: Charlie Hind
The benches last year without the arms. Photograph © Google Street View
The benches last year without the arms. Photograph © Google Street View

Similar bars have already been installed inside the half-timbered shelter at the railway station, but on the advice of officials in the council’s transport team, the decision was taken to add more bars on the bus stop outside Rougier Street.

A spokesperson for the council said:

We have received complaints about anti social behaviour in this area and having consulted about these problems we were advised that the most appropriate action was either to remove the benches entirely or fit them with arms.

Removing the benches would have an affect on all users of the passenger shelter, so the action taken was to put arms on the benches/ bars underneath them.

The aim of introducing these measures was about deterring recurrent anti-social behaviour by people who collect in this location.

Separately and through the ASB Hub we are taking a multi-agency approach to ensure that we are engaging with rough sleepers and are able to offer the support people need, whether that be in terms of finding accommodation or health provision.