Activists: Armrests aimed at preventing homeless people from resting on benches in Downtown Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Downtown benches are on the minds of some people who say their design is not good for the homeless.

Some feel a bar in the middle of some benches makes it hard for the homeless to rest. Some people even took it upon themselves to move that bar.

Two benches on South Main Street have been modified to not include the middle bar. Instead, they were moved to the far ends of the benches.

“They don’t look very attractive and like something a person would want to sit on, and frankly they’re in the way,” said Tamara Hendrix, of HOPE Memphis.

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Hendrix and other activists believe the armrests are subtle ways of preventing people from sleeping on them.

The Downtown Memphis Commission told FOX13 that is not the case at all. The DMC said the armrests are pretty standard among similar benches.

Activist Hunter Demster said if one person can move the bar, certainly the city can look into removing all of them.

“I think the bar is not meant for your arm. I don’t see any reason for it to be there. If somebody’s life is that bad that they resort to sleeping on benches, and we’re going to make it harder for them?” Demster said.

Officials said the benches were installed as part of the Main To Main project several years ago.