Conflict and Natural Disasters
Homeless people in urban parks
I am concerned about the activities at the parks. This week alone I've had run in with two homeless people in the park. I understand that the police can't be every where. But these individuals are feeling quite confident walking around. These people have no where else to go due to police and the public, they live there.

How do you think we can solve this problem? Do you think that the solution is:
-to arrest those people?
-to let them sleep at night only?
Just remember that when we say a public park we mean that it is for all people including homeless.

How can those people live in the parks, and also, parks be safe for children and pleasurable place for visitors? This case is not only in Egypt also in San Francisco and Japan and Paris. Is exclusion the solution?
-- Mai Amin, February 12, 2004
Homeless people in urban parks
Hi Mai,

I am concerned about homeless people in our urban parks too, especially when the weather turns bitterly cold during Boston's long wintery months and there are no more cots available in any of the city's homeless shelters. How do they survive the sub-zero temperature, particularly the children, the old, and the infirmed? Where do these people go to stay alive? Where are they permitted or restricted from going, because they are either economically, socially (ie., hampered with a social disability), or physically challenged?

If these people have affordable housing that they can call their home, they will not be loitering in the streets and parks. My point is, more dire than the unpleasant sting of unwashed hair or the occasional dodgy encounter with a drug addict in our public spaces, the problem of homeless people must be considered from the perspective of the homeless. Arresting them will not solve this problem -- their problem -- we need preventive urban policies and an institutional framework with which to protect young single mothers with respectable $20-per-hour white collar jobs from being evicted out of their apartments with toddlers in theirs arms because they cannot keep up with the city's rising housing costs.

In Boston, there is a grassroots movement that unites the homeless population through a monthly magazine called "What's Up." They have an informative Website at

Their dual missions are to:

1) serve as a source of community-based alternative media. Our content combines the arts with social awareness in a way that encourages the entire diverse population of Greater Boston to be socially conscious.

2) provide human service aiding the homeless and low-income by offering employment opportunities as a badged (i.e. official) magazine vendors. The homeless and low-income take part in contributing and distributing the magazine.

I think their particular endeavor is worthy of emulation. Thank you for bringing up such an important issue to this Forum. What other policies/proactive measures can we take to face this problem?

-- Chikako Sassa, February 12, 2004
Homeless people in urban parks
i am very much impressed by your concern,the problem raised by you is every where,the solution lies with local govn.and society or group of people who manage such public is resposibility of city council to identify such places,find solution to such squaters,in india we have religious practicies where people become wondering monks,there they either live outside city limits or visit settelements for three to four days at intervals to get essentials.the problem you have raised is different and can take inspiration that local gov.provides support for few days and guieds them to reestablishe socially by productive means to exsist.
-- Dushyant Nathwani, February 13, 2004
Homeless people in urban parks
This is one of the smartest inventions by Michael Rakowitz, called "parasite," which taps into the exhaust from surrounding urban mechanical vents, making an inflatable structure for the homeless. I saw this exhibition in RCA, London, 3 years ago. This might be a solution for the homeless around the world.

-- Maya Sanskrit, February 5, 2007
Homeless people in urban parks
Mai, salam -

I have a problem with the word 'homeless:'

We all have home - there are many people who cannot afford to maintain a personal, physical space. I think it is an issue of what we regard as 'the commons.' An issue which strains all societies.

In not maintaining a 'personal, physical space' - people become deracinated from their families, often from their very cultures and spiritual values.

If homeless person is found sleeping outside a Mosque, what should happen?

Clearly, there are matters of definition: Are parks 'public' parks or private? Is the utility for the use of everyone, or merely those who pay for its maintenance?

Are 'homeless' people the responsibility of the 'state:' As in there should be some kind of social safety net to provide shelters or jobs? Or are homeless people to blame entirely for their own circumstance?

This is a worldwide problem. The classic western answer is supposed to be healthy economies will raise people from poverty, then they shall 'buy' homes, etcetera etcetera. Obviously, doesn't always happen - often the very act of establishing a permanent 'family' home will place one at odds with the local governance and customs. Individuals often cannot afford to maintain their homes properly, once they get one.

So, I think the issues of 'poor people in parks' really becomes an issue of architectural and community planning - how we build communities and what values we promote by our designs. Not easy.

This is why I use the term 'friendly architecture:' In both community and building design, in and across all our global cultures we will find that always esssential, if abstract and intangible social values are inferred from our building, design and construction practices. Therefore, to me -'Islamic' architecture is 'buildings friendly to Islam.' That is, construction friendly to the practice of Islam. 'Hindu architecture' would buildings friendly to Hinduism, etcetera. So - in multi-cultural settings (like parks, the commons) we want to inculcate generally held, positive and humane social values - 'peoples' parks.' In this way, harmonious neighborhoods may evolve, side by side - each with a positive contribution to a more 'global' social economy.

Poverty is a result of economic and social injustice, in my opinion: Crime results - design your public areas in ways that are not 'crime-friendly' and you will have less problems on the commons. is this making sense?

ma salemah!
-- Anthony Stewart, February 5, 2007


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