Libraries & People in Need Responsive Service to Homeless in Your Rural Community Sonja Plummer-Morgan, MLIS and Steve Eyler, Second Life Homeless Resource February 10, 2010
What we hope to accomplish Explore perceptions and attitudes about people who are homeless in our libraries. Discuss some experience-based solutions to social problem of homelessness. Offer question & answer time for best practices and effectiveness
Keep Your Humanity in one hand and your Library Mission in the other.
“A dirty little secret about America is that public libraries have become de facto daytime shelters for the nation's street people while librarians are increasingly our unofficial social workers for the homeless and mentally disturbed.” America Gone Wrong: A Slashed Safety Net Turns Libraries into Homeless Shelters http://www.alternet.org/story/50023/
Which One is Homeless? Challenge your perceptions and your assumptions.
“Our public library should not be a refuge for some homeless people who will use its bathrooms to bathe and de-louse, who will slumber away for hours, who will play boisterous games of chess and stagger drunk around the stacks, leaving behind boozy vapors.” http://www.seattlepi.com/jamieson/174413_robert21.html OR Any person or family that, without any direct fault on his or her part, does not have suitable housing is the victim of an injustice.“~Pontifical Commission Justice and Peace Both streams of thought are in your community. Librarians need to be proactive and prepared to address public opinion before they disrupt library advocacy.
Libraries as Day Shelters How many have people who are homeless in their library everyday? What are they doing? Sleeping? Computing? Job seeking? Home hunting? Reading? Socializing? Do you know? Observing what your patrons do while at your library is a good starting point. What services can you provide?
Are policies the Answer? No sleeping in the library! No leering! No checking out books if you do not have a permanent address! No loitering! No panhandling!
Serving suggestion…policies are more effective if they address behavior and not human circumstances and are applied evenly.
What if you are homeless and age 8 and you fall asleep on a shoulder? Would that be against your no sleeping policy? What if the local professor falls asleep at your library, is that against your policy? Ask “what if” often and with a mind to fairness.
Second Life Homeless Shelter Library for Evidence and Anecdotal Based Information for Staff and Patrons—Education is key.
Reach out & Collaborate Know your community – what rich human resources are nearby that you can tap into and have some help problem solving? Social services, police departments, volunteers, faith-based initiatives, school districts, and other non-profits. Is anyone in your list better at handling crisis, social service issues, answer discrimination or legal questions?
Our Response Installed a public phone Joint training with shelter staff and keep close contact with director Keep directories to various churches and social services in ready reference Collaborated with employment center Created virtual resources in Second Life Launched extensive customer service campaign/training
Librarians as Leaders The social problem of homelessness is estimated to be rising in severity. Librarians and partners have an opportunity to be part of the sollutions.
For Further Reading Aisha A. Harvey. Homeless perspectives of the public library. http://www.moyak.com/papers/homeless-libraries.pdf National Alliance to End Homelessness http://endhomelessness.org/ Chip Ward on Homeless People and Libraries http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=234 Rural Homelessness http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/homelessness/symposium07/robertson/index.htm