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This lesson should take about 1 hour or 90 minutes (depending on the level of the students
and how chatty they are).
For more lesson plans like this, check out
Materials needed: This article printed out: Spikes Stop People Sleeping in the Street (a short article
about anti-homeless spikes in the UK that are used to prevent homeless people hanging out and
sleeping in city centres).
Warmer: write the word homelessness on the board and ask the students what it means and what
they associate with being homeless.
1) In small groups ask them to brainstorm reasons why someone might be homeless.
2) Give them the article to read.
3) Go through any unknown vocabulary (given below the article). If the students have the same first
language you could do this as a match exercise with the word in English and the word in their own
4) Students do the comprehension questions to check that they understand the content of the reading
(individual, then compare answers in pairs/group).
5) Go through the discussion questions (whole class or small groups depending on how many
students you have).
The last two questions (‘what does your government do to help homeless people?’ and ‘how can we
solve the problem of homelessness?’) might inspire debate, encourage this and factor in extra time
for this.
6) Optional: for homework ask students to research homelessness in their own or in another country
(facts, statistics, what governments are doing to solve the problem etc). For example students could
look at:
- In Vancouver the government have created park benches which turn into homeless shelters at night
so that people can sleep on them and not get wet.
- In several cities people are using hoses to spay homeless people with water to move them on.
You could then debate the best approach to homelessness next lesson and decide which would be
the most successful.
For more advanced students you could also set an essay question:
Governments do not do enough to combat the problem of homelessness. To what extent do you
In what ways could the government help to solve the problem of homelessness?
Over the last year, many buildings in the UK have
installed “anti-homeless” spikes like these to stop
people sleeping in the streets. The spikes are
appearing in major cities such as London and
Manchester, outside shops and under bridges
where homeless people usually sleep.
The shops and businesses believe that when homeless people sleep near their buildings, this gives a
bad impression to customers and it might stop people entering the buildings.
These spikes were installed outside Selfridges, a luxury
department store in Manchester, on the 1st December last
The store says it has installed these spikes because customers
have complained that people who sat here smoked and left
litter. This made the front of the shop look ugly.
The phenomenom of “defensive architecture” such as this is
very controversial. Over 3,000 people have signed a petition to
remove the spikes from Selfridges saying that these spikes are “inhumane” and that they will not help
solve the problem of homelessness in the UK. It will only move the problem to a different place.
The Guardian newspaper says that this type of architecture
is a type of apartheid: it stops homeless people living in
public places. It makes them invisible to the rest of society.
The UK is not the only country to install “anti-homeless”
architecture. Spikes are also used in China (photo below).
In New York City a famous bookstore has used water
sprinklers to get rid of homeless people from the front of the
Vocabulary: to install (v), homeless (adj), homelessness (n), department store (n), litter (n), inhumane
(adj), apartheid (n), water sprinkler (n) to get rid of (phrasal verb).
Comprehension Questions
1) Where have anti-homeless spikes been installed?
2) Why have buildings installed these spikes? What reason does Selfridges give?
3) Why are the spikes controversial?
4) What is the opinion of the Guardian newspaper?
Discussion Questions
1) What effect do you think these spikes will have on homeless people?
2) What effect do you think these spikes will have on society in general?
3) Do you think they are a good idea?
4) What ways do your government help homeless people?
5) How can we solve the problem of homelessness?
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