Retail’s homeless problem
In the U.K., Tesco recently removed spikes outside one of its stores after being accused of using them to prevent homeless people from sleeping there.
Apparently, an increasing number of stores and apartment buildings in the U.K. are placing what’s being called "anti-homeless spikes" outside windows and doorways for such purposes. Drawing protests and wide coverage in the British tabloids in mid-June, an activist group, London Black Revolutionaries, poured concrete on the spikes and wrote "Homes Not Spikes" where the spikes were placed at Tesco’s store on Regent Street.
Tesco said the spikes were installed to curb smoking and other "antisocial" behavior, but they still removed them.
"Customers told us they were intimidated by anti-social behavior outside our Regent Street store and we put studs in place to try and stop it," a spokesman told The Guardian.
In a related circumstance, the famous Strand Book Store in lower Manhattan, last fall was accused of using a sprinkler system to evict homeless people sleeping there at night. Strand officials said the sprinklers were meant to clean the sidewalk, although store employees told the New York Post that the homeless were causing awkward encounters and messy cleanups for store associates who had to set up book carts outside every morning.
Beyond major cities, homeless or "vagrants" issues appear to be a problem at many resort towns and tourist areas.
An article last year by the Colorado Springs Business Journal detailed how the local police were placing more emphasis on managing the "downtown’s vagrant presence." Generally, peaceful begging is not an offense and said to be protected by the Constitution, but arrests can be made for aggressive panhandling, intoxication, obstructing sidewalks, using offensive words and other offenses.
Merchants in Colorado Springs were said to be banding together to invest in an around-the-clock security force and introducing a campaign to encourage donations to homeless groups instead of giving money to panhandlers. Other measures included installing wrought-iron features on downtown planters to stop people from sitting on them and converting trash cans to compactors to keep people from digging in them.
Beyond shoplifting, the panhandlers were said to be scaring off shoppers. Drug use was also a problem for those retailers offering public bathrooms.
- Tesco to remove anti-homeless spikes from Regent Street store after protests – The Guardian
- Strand Bookstore ‘uses sprinklers to evict homeless’ – New York Post
- Vagrants incite business owners – Colorado Springs Business Journal
- Making the streets a little less mean – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub.)
- Police Crackdown on Downtown Vagrants – Edhat Santa Barbara
- Prevention Tips Dealing with Homeless People – San Diego Police Department
What options are available for retailers in incidents involving homeless and/or vagrants? Would greater security, associate training or some other steps help?