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Cardiff University Built A Cage To Stop Homeless People Sleeping Next To Its Building, Student Claims

People apparently used to sleep next to vents blowing out hot air. BuzzFeed News spoke to both the student who spotted the cages and the university.

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Cardiff University has installed a metal cage in front of warm vents to stop homeless people sleeping next to them, it has been claimed.

Lewis Hopkins / Via atreatfortheeyes.wordpress.com

The set of grilles was spotted by third-year journalism student Lewis Hopkins last Wednesday upon his return to university after the summer holidays.

In a blog post, Hopkins said the cages had been installed on side of the Sir Martin Evans building as a way of preventing people from sheltering there for warmth in the winter. A subsequent Twitter search revealed the grilles were first spotted while students were away in July.

However, the university rejected the accusations and claimed the cage was erected for health and safety reasons.

Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Hopkins said students had reacted to the new installation with "disgust".

"On top of that [there is] a sense of money being misused," he added. "We pay £9,000 a year to the university and this is how they choose to use our money."

He said that during his time at the university he only seen homeless people sheltering next to the vents three times a week, and only during the evenings.

"They were always gone in the morning," he said.

A number of students spoke to Hopkins about the cage.

Cardiff University / Facebook

Morgan Towler told him: "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."

Victoria Boyle, a third-year criminology student, said: "It is clearly a complex situation. However, I find it saddening that in my opinion the main focus was to displace the homeless due to them being unsightly. I worry that Cardiff University are using the health and safely risk as an excuse. Surely students using the walkway on a daily basis are at as much of a risk as the homeless community."

And Will De Smith, who is currently studying criminology and social policy, declared: "I think that it's disgraceful that Cardiff University have implemented these measures against the homeless. I often walk past here and they've never shown aggression, just seeking a warm place to sleep in an otherwise wet city."

Any suggestion that Cardiff University erected the safety grilles to deter homeless people is wholly inaccurate and completely misleading.The decision to erect grilles was taken in the interests of health and safety. The area covered by the safety grilles are not hot air vents but boiler flue vents that can potentially produce products of combustion – diluted amounts of carbon monoxide being one of these – as part of the diluted boiler flue gases.The two vents in question are boiler flue dilution and combustion air intake and extract grilles. These vents are considered safe in normal use due to the type of flue dilution system being used but there could potentially be an increased risk if people are sleeping right next to the grilles for very long periods.

The spokesperson said the university had been working with security on the campus to "reduce this potential risk to people sleeping directly in front of the boiler flue outlets".

Creative Commons / Via Flickr: lodekka

"In the interests of health and safety, the decision was taken to install a set of safety grilles," they added.

"These safety grilles allow even more air diffusion than normally required and therefore further reduce any risks to anyone who may choose to sleep in this vicinity."

However, Hopkins said he didn't buy the line from the university about the vents being a potential hazard.

He told BuzzFeed News it was more likely the university simply wanted to remove the homeless people from the campus, but that it would never admit it.

"Perhaps a publicly funded institution should be more public spirited," he said.

"Instead, they are further displacing these people and sweeping the issue of homelessness under the carpet."

The incident is reminiscent of the "homeless spikes" spotted in Southwark earlier this year.

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That incident led to a heated debate and a successful petition to have the spikes removed.

Richard James is acting head of news for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

Contact Richard James at richard.james@buzzfeed.com.

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