THE HOMELESS community have shamed a ‘spiteful’ and ‘nasty’ vigilante who drilled armrests onto a bench to stop people lying down.

The bench, which is in a sheltered bus stop on Woodstock Road, already has three armrests – one at either end and another in the middle.

But this weekend somebody took it upon themselves, against Oxford City Council’s wishes, to drill in two extra armrests in a suspected bid to stop homeless people from lying down.

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The concept is known as hostile architecture – a design strategy to stop anti-social behaviour, including rough sleeping.

However typical designs – which include armrests on park benches, sloping windows and studs on flat spaces – usually target people who rely on public spaces more like the homeless and young people.

Jason Dart, who has been living on the streets in and around Oxford for about nine years, said: “What happens if an old man needed to put his feet up or somebody with mental illness needed to rest – it might not be a homeless person using that bench.”

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The 28-year-old added: “It is really spiteful, in fact – it’s nasty.

“I feel like we are really stigmatised; we are judged for being homeless.

“We’re homeless – not hopeless. It’s a good saying that.”

Oxford City Council's servce company, Oxford Direct Services, has now removed the armrests and the council has said it had nothing to do with them.

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Holes where the extra armrests were drilled in.

But its not the first time this has happened.

Oxford city councillor Shaista Aziz said that extra armrests were added to benches near the Westgate Centre when it was first built, and the seating on Cornmarket Street is rounded, making it harder to sit down.

She said: “It’s quite an aggressive approach.

“You can’t have a city like ours that wants to move forward with homelessness and then do this – we are supposed to be making progress.

“It’s really easy to demonise homeless people but they actually feel ashamed – and it’s exhausting to be homeless – you can see it just by looking at them.

“Hostile architecture is unwelcoming. Public spaces are for everyone – whether they have a home or not, and whether they are rich or poor. What this is saying is that public spaces are being limited for certain people.”

Another homeless person, James Ellam, 41, has been on the streets for a couple of years.

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He said: “It’s tough – you get moved on all the time. Police give you a hard time, everybody gives you a hard time. They put things in front of doorways so you can’t get some shelter.”

Mr Dart added: “I sleep in the covered market ally bit – they move me on at about 7am, they’re really nice about it every day. Then I go and sleep on the gap doorway until about 9am – after that I just try and find places to be.”

Sam King, who is known as ‘Beatbox’ on the streets, has been living in sheltered accommodation run by the city council.

He said: “I think people can help us just by being nice. Not by doing things to benches.”

He explained that after walking around in the wet and cold, a lot of homeless people find themselves with a disease called trench foot.

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Mr King said: "When you get trench foot you have to sit down or lie down because you need to rest, but when you do you get told off for sitting down on the pavement and people think you’re begging.

"Sometimes you are begging, but not all the time."

He added: "Begging is a life skill for homeless people – it’s needed for survival.

"I feel really bad about doing it – I hate asking people for money and I always say sorry when I ask."

Mr Ellam added: "It’s really embarrassing. Even just asking for change to buy a coffee."

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A picture of the park bench was shared on social media and sparked a huge response from the community.

Ms Aziz shared the image on Twitter, writing: “I’m against all types of hostile architecture making it harder for people who are homeless to rest and take shelter from the rain and freezing cold.”

Linda Smith, who is the deputy leader and cabinet for leisure and housing at the council, said: “These arm rests were not installed by Oxford City Council or Oxford Direct Services and [we have removed them].

“Arm rests on benches are part of inclusive design as they provide extra help for older people and people with mobility issues, making it easier for them to sit and stand up again. This bench already has three arm rests

“We believe that nobody should have to sleep rough in Oxford and we’re doing more than ever before to tackle the national homelessness crisis”

The council has recent spent £1.8m in creating a new homeless shelter on Floyds Row off St Aldates.