Last week I witnessed a maintenance man for Downtown Properties install a bike rack on the concrete stoop outside of Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of College Avenue and Fraser Street.
A few feet away from it was a new bench with arm rests across the middle. In between them was the Hearts for Homeless shelter. To the unsuspecting person, these might seem like perfectly innocent installations. However, they were installed with the apparent intent of removing the homeless from the public eye. The bench and bike rack are what’s known as “defensive architecture,” a sneaky way for the property owners to keep people from doing something like sitting down on a stoop or sleeping on a bench.
We need to ask ourselves on a personal and national level why we are so afraid of the homeless. It’s easy to ignore someone sitting on the sidewalk asking for spare change because we dehumanize them in our minds. But what if that person was your mother? Father? Sister? Brother? Would you give them that 50 cents in your pocket? Would you talk to them? Would you want them to be shooed away by a bike rack? We cannot allow our fellow man to be treated like garbage. Let’s do better by them and make a meaningful change in our community, instead of pushing the problem somewhere else because it makes the building manager or some pedestrians uncomfortable.
Nick Bermudez, State College