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It was the first day back at university after a long summer off and I was taking my usual route to Monday morning lectures. Out the door, to the back of the students’ union, up over the railway bridge before cutting through by the Sir Martin Evans building and finally arriving at Bute building. But something was different on this morning that sickened me to the core.

A cold, ugly barred cage had been fixed to one of vents. I had noticed the winter before that these vents bellowed a comforting pocket of warm air, which from time to time was occupied by the homeless. They never caused any trouble, never littered nor gathered in groups. They were just content with finding a warm place to sleep at night. I would see them sitting warm and snug with a duvet on the way back from lectures, in the evening, and when I returned bright and early the next morning they had always moved on. As a Cardiff University student the sight of this cage every morning makes me feel disgusted and ashamed of my own university, something I never thought I would feel.

When I contacted Cardiff University’s Security Services they commented:

As your aware this area has attracted persons who have located themselves on the vent thereby causing a risk to their own health and safety. This has generated complaints from University staff and members of the public.

It is believed that long term persistent contact with the steam could be deemed as a health hazard which would leave the University in an invidious position.

The area in which the guard has been placed is the property of Cardiff University. A guard has been placed at this location to discourage persons from using it for this purpose.”

The cage has been constructed on the side of The Sir Martin Evans/bio-chemistry building so I’m sure they’ve got their science correct concerning the dangers of regular contact with steam. But surely allowing a homeless person to occasionally have a warm night’s sleep is more beneficial for their health than having them out in the bitter cold.

Third year Cardiff University Journalism student Morgan Towler spoke out about the cage stating:

Surely sleeping in freezing cold and soaking wet conditions during the winter will cause more harm than the steam from the vent ever could. We should be helping these people in any way possible, not taking away their only source of warmth because it makes the university campus look bad

The installation of this inhumane cage is not an isolated incident, earlier this summer in London spikes were placed where homeless people were known to sleep at night. They were eventually removed on Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s orders, after he tweeted “Spikes…to deter rough sleeping are ugly, self-defeating & stupid. Developer should remove them ASAP.”

This ‘anti-homeless cage’ installed on Cardiff University’s campus is a stark reminder that it is easier to sweep issues such as homelessness and poverty under the carpet, and although the cage will solve the issue in that particular spot it merely displaces the homeless even further. Cardiff University are entirely missing the point, instead of spending money on what looks like a pretty expensive structure, they should instead be using their funds to combat the lack of help for homeless people with mental health, drug and alcohol problems.

It is still fairly mild and dry outside, but to steal a phrase from ‘Game of Thrones’, “Winter is coming!” and while that is not much of a problem for the rest of society sitting indoors with the heating on and a cup of tea, it is a problem for the homeless people of Cardiff.

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(This blog post is in no way meant to be a balanced news piece. It is purely my comment on Cardiff University’s decision to install this structure. I emailed Cardiff University prior to publication of this piece and their initial comment has been included)

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26 thoughts on “Cardiff University Installs ‘Anti-homeless Cage’

  1. Ok I’m sorry I couldn’t help but comment… Although on the whole I agree with what you say… perhaps maybe the university was doing it to protect you! Call me stereo typical but sometimes the homeless are invoked in drama or at least targeted towards and the university was trying to prevent that.

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  2. I do agree that if the homeless were to get negative affects from the steam that Cardiff University would be in an even worse situation, however it is clear that this cage has been placed here to deter the homeless away from our student campus – perhaps because it makes us look bad?

    It is NOT Cardiff University’s responsibility to put measures in place to help the homeless but they have proved that the community and council as a whole need to have more measures in place to help its homeless community.

    Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this article. This has really bothered me as I walk or cycle by this spot every day on my way to work and back home. The day it was installed I had to stop to check if it was actually what it appeared to be. From a far I had initially thought that finally some kind soul had arranged for a little shelter to be constructed, using the waste heat from the Biochem building. I saw the University’s marketing department already licking their lips, drafting up a new brochure. “Sustainability and Social Responsibility” the headline read, two birds with one stone …
    Instead I can now only add yet another perverted use of this country’s pathological obsession with health and safety to the list.
    I do really hope that this article and more importantly the issue it covers gets the attention it needs. Thank you again for this piece!

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  4. One shouldn’t assume the motivation behind this move to have been an attack on the homeless when the more obvious explanation is, exactly as the University said, that this was to prevent potential carbon monoxide poisoning of people sleeping right up against a boiler exhaust flue.

    Obviously, the ideal move would be to re-route the flue up to the roof, but since that would likely be prohibitively expensive, providing an exclusion zone around it was probably seen as the cheapest immediate solution.

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  5. Do you even know the reason for that vent? it seems like you don’t. Underneath that building; where the vent comes from, is where body parts and dead bodies are kept for medical, anatomy, etc students to study. It is probably not just ‘steam’ as you put it, in fact there is no steam… steam is water vapour. The hot air is the result of the cooling system used to preserve the bodies, and so yes, I’d assume that it’s probably not great for the health to be sleeping against that kind of air every night… Good job on the click bait though, I’m sure you’ll be working at Buzzfeed in no time!

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    • I never said I was an expert on the chemical/steam being produced by the vent. I was quoting the University’s security services when I used the word ‘steam’. Surely if this chemical is so dangerous hundreds of students should not be walking past it on a daily basis? In my opinion the excuse given seems like nothing more than exactly that, an excuse.

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  15. I have just graduated from Cardiff and used to walk past this area quite regularly. This is absolutely disgusting behaviour and I’m shocked that such a move came from our own university. If there really are health concerns associated with sleeping by these vents would it not be more cost effective as well as humane to errect a sign simply explaining this and stating that it is done at the person’s own risk instead of further displacing homeless people.

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  19. hello I’m a Taiwanese college student reporter from National Cheng Chi University.My name is Sabrina.
    And I saw the news on the BuzzFeedNews that your school build a cage to stop homeless sleeping next to the building, I’m writing an article about it.
    Can I ask you some questions about this?
    Because I’m wondering that wether students will take some action to remove the cage ?
    I’m enormously grateful for your help.

    Like

  20. Pingback: Cardiff University Built A Cage To Stop Homeless People Sleeping Next To Its Building, Student Claims | SOCIOSCENE

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