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.
(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)