Scars on the concrete outside a window of Archambault on Berri St., where spikes had been installed to deter people from sitting or lying down there.
When Le Devoir came out with a story this week noting the presence of anti-homeless spikes outside of a downtown business, the outrage was immediate. Heartless, disgusting, inhuman, dangerous. All sorts of angry comments directed at Archambault, the music and book store who Le Devoir said installed them.
Mayor Denis Coderre, outraged, promised to have them removed by any means necessary within the day.
As it turns out, Archambault wasn’t at fault, it was the owner of the building. And public pressure resulted in a crew removing the spikes by noon. News outlets discussed the issue, offering comments from the public who again noted their outrage. There was a comparison with a similar thing being done in London, another move that was reversed after public outcry. Or with a similar thing at a McDonald’s two blocks away as seen in Google Street View images taken in 2012, but those had already been removed.
Kate points me to this Hour story about the increasing pressure placed on homeless people in this city. Banning dogs from parks. Banning people from parks overnight. Ticketing people for sleeping in the metro.
At the end of the article is mentioned a new tactic being used: forcing people who have been arrested to sign a document promising to stay out of the area as a condition of their release. The problem, of course, is that services aimed at the homeless are right there. (I’ve seen this technique used for other annoyances the police can’t get rid of legally: They tried to make activists Jaggi Singh, Samer Elatrash and Yves Engler sign agreements that he wouldn’t participate in protests.)
I passed a woman begging at a metro station today. A friend gave her some spare change, despite it being clear from the woman’s behaviour that she was a drug abuser and that the money would probably go to feeding her habit. I didn’t. I don’t give money to beggars for exactly that reason.
But for crying out loud, let these people sleep in peace. If you’re worried about crime and drug use, put more police officers on duty and arrest people who are breaking the law. But nobody should be declared illegal just because you find them icky. And so-called “loitering” laws (loitering means “doing nothing”, which is the one right above all others that nobody should take away) should be done away with.
Our government is failing its poorest citizens. That’s an issue that needs to be tackled directly, not swept under the rug in the hopes it becomes some other borough’s problem.