What happens when libraries are asked to help the homeless find shelter By Marc Vartabedian January 27
And staffs are totally unsure how to handle the influx of low-income people with special needs
In 2008, the San Francisco Public Library considered a very unusual question. How, they asked the city’s homeless, can our library better serve you?
Officials weren’t looking for book club ideas. Over the past decade, the shrinking social safety net has turned many libraries into major care providers for the underprivileged. The homeless, in particular, rely on libraries for daytime shelter. It’s a big job, one that libraries — perpetually cash-strapped and understaffed — aren’t sure they’re equipped to handle.
Take San Francisco. Officials knew that homeless patrons had a range of special needs. Some had immediate medical concerns. Others wanted help finding temporary shelter or using the Internet to apply for unemployment benefits, disability insurance and jobs. These needs required time and full-time staff, not harried librarians. Read more...