Anti-homeless metal spikes appear outside Sen. Michael Bennet’s office
COLORADO SPRINGS — On a lawyer’s advice, two sets of metal anti-homeless spikes will be removed from outside the downtown office of Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, says the building’s landlord.
The spikes, which are fastened into the brick flooring behind a low, curved wall near the doors of Bennet’s Tejon Street office, have been there for about two weeks, says landlord Bruce Mahncke. Mahncke told The Colorado Independent that, at the request of his attorney, he would remove them in the next day or so because of liability concerns — not because anyone from Bennet’s office complained.
The black, medieval-looking metal spikes are there to prevent someone from comfortably lying down out of sight from the public roadway or sidewalk.
“Homeless spikes,” said a passerby in a shirt and tie who noticed a reporter examining them Wednesday morning. On his way into a nearby coffee shop, the man commented that the homeless used to sleep and vomit near the building entrance before the spikes went in.
Senator Bennet’s rented Colorado Springs office is on the ground floor in clear view of the black spikes outside the front window. Located in the upper Tejon Street neighborhood near the campus of Colorado College, the space is a regional office used in Bennet’s capacity as a United States senator; it is not a campaign office. There is another private business office on the opposite side of the Bennet space.
A staffer in Bennet’s Tejon Street office referred questions about the metal spikes to Mahncke.
“We’ve had homeless people that sleep in there and they get up and defecate in there,” Mahncke told The Colorado Independent. “They urinate on the windows at 10 o’clock in the morning. It’s just — it’s a problem. My tenants are having to step over them when they come in and out of the building.”
A maintenance worker responsible for cleaning in the building said that she sometimes had to clean up vomit around the area before the spikes went up. Homelessness in the area is a big problem, she said, and one that’s getting worse. She said perhaps in the spring or summer a big potted plant placed outside the door might keep people from sleeping there.
Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said the senator hasn’t been to the Colorado Springs office since the spikes went up, and Bennet didn’t know about them. Bozzi said the devices weren’t placed at the request of anyone in the office, and it’s the right decision that they’re going away. He added that a regional director planned to address what could be done about the devices.
Bennet is up for re-election in November. Currently more than a dozen Republicans are running in a primary to face him in the fall.
Homeless deterrent devices like the ones outside Bennet’s office made headlines in 2014 after they started popping up around London. One artist there, Leah Borromeo, turned the metal spikes into an art project. “Spikes do nothing more than shoo the realities of poverty and inequality away from your backyard — so you don’t have to see it or confront what you can do to make things more equal,” Borromeo said at the time.
In Colorado Springs, homelessness has increasingly become a contentious issue for business owners and homeless advocates in the downtown area. Earlier this month, the conservative city council passed an ordinance aimed at preventing people from sitting and lying in public places around the city, such as sidewalks and trails.
That ordinance received heavy pushback from homeless advocates as well as the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has popped the Colorado Springs city government in the recent past for the way it treats the area’s large homeless population, and has gotten results.
“Through geographic restrictions that ban people from downtown and the recently-enacted sit-lie ordinance that makes it a crime to sit, Colorado Springs has been sending a clear message that homeless people are not welcome downtown,” said the ACLU of Colorado’s legal director Mark Silverstein. “In that context, it is especially disappointing to see such a graphic and symbolic rejection of Senator Bennet’s most vulnerable constituents outside of his office.”
The new ordinance in Colorado Springs, called “The Pedestrian Access Act,” goes into affect April 9. A sit-in demonstration is scheduled for that morning in downtown Colorado Springs.
Asked what he’d say to critics of anti-homeless spikes who call their use cruel or brutal, Mahncke said they should try being a landlord.
“I think what the homeless are doing is pretty cold and brutal,” he said.
Photo: Corey Hutchins