A tanning salon has installed ‘anti-homeless sprinklers’ after staff complained about the growing numbers of rough sleepers spending the night outside its shop.
The automatic system comes on every evening until the early morning, dripping water from the roof onto potential homeless people sleeping below.
There are also spikes on the wall outside the shop to stop people sitting down outside.
Owners at Consul tanning salon in Broadmead, Bristol, say it is the least aggressive way of deterring homeless people from setting up camp outside.
But the move has sparked anger from the homeless population and supporting charities.
Owners at Consul tanning salon in Broadmead, Bristol (pictured), say sprinklers are the least aggressive way of deterring homeless people from setting up camp outside
It comes in the same week as benches in Bournemouth, Dorset were fitted with ‘anti-rough sleeper’ bars and the Conservative leader of Windsor and Maidenhead Council survived a vote of no confidence over his calls to ‘clear out’ the area of homeless people before Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in May.
Salon bosses in Bristol claim they were left with no option after a rise in rough sleeper numbers.
They claim in the past six months they have left vomit, needles and bottles outside the premises.
Jesper Primdhal, the salon’s director said: ‘Obviously homelessness is on the rise in the city centre.
‘Eighteen months ago we had just one or two people sleeping there – we had an understanding with them that when we turned up for work at 7am they would move on – it worked fine they packed up with no problem.
‘That went on for a year but six months ago we started getting a group of five, six, seven people sleeping there.’
The automatic system (pictured) comes on every evening until the early morning, dripping water from the roof onto potential homeless people sleeping below
But the move has sparked anger from the homeless population and supporting charities
Jesper said the group left vomit outside the shop as well as needles and bottles. He said some of the group were abusive to his staff, who are mostly young women.
‘We called the police four or five times,’ he said.
‘It was too much. In the end we thought what is the least aggressive deterrent?
‘The simplest solution was to make it rain in that area, just enough to stop people sleeping there.
‘In the end we are responsible for our staff, some of whom are leaving work at 10.30pm, so we talked to everyone and the decision was made.’
Annual homelessness figures for 2017 counted 86 people sleeping on the streets of Bristol – a rise of 12 people (14 per cent) on the previous year.
But rough sleeper Dexter, who has been on the streets of the area for four years, slammed the new measures, saying they ‘punish people for being homeless’.
He said: ‘It’s a bit out of order to do that.
There are also spikes (pictured) on the wall outside the shop to stop people sitting down outside
‘What purpose does it serve? Most people aren’t nasty people – they don’t deserve to be punished for being homeless.
‘What we need is safe places to sleep. I slept here on the pavement last night, that wasn’t safe.
‘Fair play if some people are making a mess, – but that’s what it feels like – its punishing people for being homeless.’
Mr Primdhal maintains the sprinklers are doing a ‘good job’ of deterring rough sleepers from outside his shop, but the wider problem is still causing issues throughout the city.
He said: ‘We can see it in the streets – it’s a serious problem but it’s really the council’s job to find a permanent solution, this isn’t a solution. Moving them around isn’t a solution.’
Salon bosses in Bristol claim they were left with no option after a rise in rough sleepers. They claim in the past six months they have left vomit, needles and bottles outside the premises
The homelessness problem in Bristol has been described as a ‘humanitarian crisis’, with reports of a 128 per cent rise in the number of people sleeping rough over the past three years.
Julie, a local volunteer who helps people sleeping on the city streets, said she is ‘appalled’ at Consul’s sprinkler idea.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE SLEEPING ROUGH?
Of the 4,751 rough sleepers counted across the UK in 2017
- 653 (14 per cent) were women
- 760 (16 pr cent) were EU nationals from outside the UK
- 193 (4 per cent) were from outside the EU.
- Nationality of 402 people (8 per cent) was not known – it suggests that some people may not wish to disclose their non-UK nationality.
- 370 (8 per cent) were 18 – 25 years old.
- 3 persons (less than 0.1 per cent) were under 18 years old
She said: ‘I’m appalled at the way certain business owners are treating the homeless.
‘We need to be looking after the rough sleepers in the town.
‘I keep hearing stories from the rough sleepers about how they’re being treated and how they’re being pushed out of the city.
‘Really all we’re doing is pushing them out, making them someone else’s problem.
‘Let’s look after them, do something to help – not put sprinklers on them, not take away their cardboard remove their belongings.’
David Withers said he saw the sprinkler system on his way to work – he said such deterrents ‘weaponised public spaces’ against those at the bottom of society.
He said: ‘Obviously I’m well aware of the fact that problems like addiction and antisocial behaviour can come along with homelessness and can sympathise with business owners but this seems like a very cold and uncaring measure.
‘If one was unaware of the presence of the system they could well be soaked during the night which could well be a death sentence at this time of the year.’
Speaking in December on the annual rough sleeper count, Bristol City Council said it was ‘disappointed but not surprised’ there had been a rise of 14 per cent.
In the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead on Monday, Tory council leader Simon Dudley survived a motion of no confidence called against him after a homelessness row
Mr Dudley triggered the furore when he said beggars could present the town in a ‘sadly unfavourable light’ when Prince Harry marries American actress Meghan Markle in May
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said he has made tackling the issue of homelessness a top priority and is committed to getting the number to zero.
He said: ‘We are incredibly disappointed, but not surprised, that despite all the hard work of people across the city the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Bristol continues to rise.
‘The increasing intensity of the city and the country’s housing crisis is the reason we have made homes and communities one of our very highest priorities– from rough sleeping to the hidden homeless.
‘National policy is making more people poorer and more vulnerable – this is the context in which we are providing services.
‘Rough sleeping is complex and I have tasked various members of my cabinet with tackling all the things which cause it.’
MailOnline has contacted the council for further comment.
In the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead on Monday, Tory council leader Simon Dudley survived a motion of no confidence called against him after a homelessness row.
Mr Dudley triggered the furore when he said beggars could present the town in a ‘sadly unfavourable light’ when Prince Harry marries American actress Meghan Markle in May.
In a letter to police, he complained about ‘aggressive begging and intimidation’, and ‘bags and detritus’ on the streets.
He said police should use their powers under the 1824 Vagrancy Act and the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to ‘protect residents and tourists’.
Mr Dudley later apologised for his comments and said he was not referring to genuine homeless people, and that he regretted referring to Harry and Ms Markle’s wedding at the time.
A petition to stop rough sleepers being taken off the streets has attracted more than 270,000 signatures.