COLUMN: Dear architecture, support the homeless


Katja Benz

Katja Benz, Columnist

This spring break was the busiest spring break I think I’ve ever had. I went to visit a friend at the school she goes to, went to Chicago on two separate occasions and hung out with other friends that had the same break as me.

I was so busy that I barely saw my family. However, during the few moments they had with me, they talked to me about safety, or rather safety in big cities.

Both times I went to Chicago, my parents warned me about the number of homeless people I might see. My parents were apprehensive about me going because I’ve never been there by myself. And to make matters worse, the last time I went was four years ago when I was in high school for a project.

When I went in high school, I was in a group going with my school. However, I had no such luxury this time.

My parents were telling me to be aware of my surroundings and to stay off my phone. Their mentality is: the less a homeless person sees that you have, the less likely they will be to interact with you.

When I went to the city for the first time over break, I saw homeless people sleeping against walls and in tents. When I went four years ago, I even saw people sleeping on the ground.

I’ve seen homeless people in my hometown get defeated when they can’t sleep on a bench because they have those loops through the middle, acting as armrests. I then see them sleeping on the ground or in piles of dirt, which is both unsanitary and uncomfortable.

The type of architecture that those benches are is hostile architecture, which is specifically designed to keep out behavior in a certain direction or restrict some behaviors.

In this case, it’s trying to restrict people from sleeping in public places.

I don’t see people sleeping on benches or in chairs as a bad thing, especially because everybody deserves a place to sleep.

However, it took me years to notice this type of architecture. A Nov. 2019 New York Times articles said, “Hostile architecture can be as subtle as simply not providing a place to sit, as obvious as a wall or fence to keep people or animals out or as aggressive as metal studs embedded in pavement.”

It also scares me because any of us, as college students, could be homeless at any moment. A 2021 University of Southern California article said that 14 percent of college students across the board for two- and four-year colleges and universities experience homelessness.

So if we can’t afford housing and can’t sleep anywhere because of this architecture, what are we supposed to do? Not sleep?

That sounds a little extreme to me, especially because we have to do well in school.

This doesn’t even have to be applied to cities. This can be applied to colleges across the country.

Please worry more about people being housed than the prettiness of your architecture. I promise that your city or campus will look prettier if the homeless have places to sleep.

And the homeless will probably get a better sleep too. And who doesn’t love sleep?


Katja Benz is a junior English major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]