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Student calls out LSE for changing benches outside its library to drive off rough sleepers

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The London School of Economics has added armrests to the benches outside its library in an attempt to prevent people from sleeping on them.

Cara Leavey, a student and research assistant at LSE, highlighted the issue in a tweet to the official LSE Twitter account, she wrote 'why did you change the benches outside the library to these? Rough sleepers used to use the benches at night because it’s one of the only sheltered places around, now they can’t."

The armrests are part of a broader anti-homeless architectural phenomenon called "defensive architecture". The defensive architecture includes measures like concrete or metal spikes commonly seen outside buildings, as well as more subtle measures like sloping seats at bus stops. Critics of these measures claim that they create hostile urban spaces hostile not only to the homeless but also to others who might need spaces on which to rest.

Leavey further commented that the university, along with its students, had a responsibility to 'protect the vulnerable in society.'

Student activist Zeena, also from LSE, told us that she saw no threat in the rough sleepers.

"I spent many full nights inside the library and took frequent breaks outside within the vicinity of these sleepers: it was clear that all these people need is a place to sleep and are posing no threat to anyone at all.

"The only time I was ever approached was by a woman asking me, if I had the time, to print her a form for commercial squatting rights in London.

She sharply criticised LSE, saying: "We are continuing to treat these people as though they are not human and LSE is adapting its architecture to accommodate its increasingly hostile nature and atmosphere as a University campus."

Featured image courtesy of Cara Leavey and Mark Hillary

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