How a photo of anti homelessness deterrents posted on social media saw thousands of people get behind a campaign for their removal
A passerby’s photo of metal studs to deter the homeless from sleeping outside a block of South London flats provoked widespread outrage on social media last week, bringing to the world’s attention the rise in the number of people on the streets in the Capital.
Within hours of 33-year-old Andrew Horton uploading the picture to Facebook, after taking the photo on his way to work, it was posted on Twitter and re-tweeted thousands of times.
Critics and homelessness charities, which said the deterrents have been used for more than a decade, described the studs as inhumane and brutal, with some comparing them to the metal spikes used to deter pigeons.
London Comes Together
As the Twitter storm gathered pace, other photos began to emerge of similar studs across London and the rest of the UK, along with other measures to deter rough sleepers, sparking an anti homelessness spikes hashtag campaign #antihomelessnessspikes
Politican Theresea May and London Mayor Boris Johnson gave their backing to the campaign, along with hundreds of Twitter users.
Writing on the social media site, the Mayor said, ‘Spikes outside Southwark development to deter rough sleepers are ugly, self defeating and stupid. Developer should remove them ASAP.’
He went on to tweet about his ‘No second night out’ scheme, which he said had reached three-quarters of rough sleepers.
However the Mayor’s comments were met with criticism as people called on him to tackle the real issue, the rise in the number of people living on the streets caused by unemployment, increased living costs and the capital’s housing crisis.
Making Light Of The Situation
Other social media users posted joke pictures of the studs on shoes and on the Tory front benches in Parliament to hit home the message.
By the middle of this week, seven days since the photo was first uploaded, #antihomelessnessspikes had reached 107, 809 Twitter accounts and attracted hundreds of comments, along with national news coverage. Headlines included, ‘Metal studs treat the homeless ‘like animals’ (Sky News),
Making a Change
As word of the campaign spread, gaining support from Twitter users across 12 countries, online petitions appeared calling on the Mayor and Prime Minister to take action, along with protests being organised across the City in areas with the studs.
At the time of writing, the petitions had a combined 104, 349 signature.
Tesco agreed to remove the anti-homeless spikes from outside one of its central London stores, while the London Mayor had committed to forcing South London developers to remove the studs from outside the block of flats.
Social media users across the globe also admitted to feeling more sympathetic to the plight of those sleeping rough.
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