Libraries = Homeless Shelters


My days of going to the library have been certainly diminished with the advent of the INTERNET. My thesis research days are long past as well. However, that does not mean that libraries do not greatly serve communities providing reading & research environments to children. Reading, something that should be stressed even more than already presently is done. However, libraries have come under assault recently as being a place to loiter for many and Houston Public Libraries look like the intend to put an end to it.

Those who want to browse books at Houston’s public libraries should get enough sleep, eat and bathe before they begin to peruse the shelves.

On Wednesday, the City Council passed a series of library regulations that some say are an attempt to discourage homeless people from visiting the public buildings.

Library officials said people have been using the libraries as temporary shelters, restaurants and changing stations. The new ordinance prohibits sleeping on tables, eating, using restrooms for bathing and “offensive bodily hygiene that constitutes a nuisance to others.”

Two council members voted against the ordinance, saying it was a direct attack on the homeless.

“I understand what they’re trying to do, but when you start targeting a community like the homeless, I think that’s poor policy,” council member Ada Edwards said.

Mayor Bill White said there have been several complaints from the public about abuse of the city’s libraries.

Folks, a library is not a homeless shelter. I am sure that no one in the Houston Council or any where for that matter would probably even care if homeless individuals did not bath and were actually using the library for its intended purpose, READING!!! The fact that we want to take children’s rights or any one else that wishes to use a library for the homeless right is puzzling. I am sure I know which side the ACLU will come down on this issue.

This is obviously not a new problem as many communities have tried to address the situation of homeless using libraries as day shelters.

Coming from personal experience in our local community the same issue exists. So we are supposed to have children go to a library where there are other people there who have no intention of using the library for its educational resources. It would not be so bad if some of the homeless in turn did not panhandle. What parent in this day and age is going to allow their child go to a library and have strangers come up to them. If parents do not allow their children to go because of fear of leaving them in a public place with individuals that have no real reason to be there, then the funding becomes difficult as no one in a community will support something that no one uses.

Posted April 28, 2005 by
General, Main | 2 comments

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  • Comments

    2 Responses to “Libraries = Homeless Shelters”

    1. Sherri Yoder on September 29th, 2005 8:20 pm

      While I can try to understand the frustration that many public service employees feel with regard to homeless persons “encroaching” upon a true resource area, such as a library, I think there are some fundamental misconceptions and perhaps some blatant negative emotional reactions that surface in this text.

      By stating that libraries have “come under assault,” one assumes that there is a conspiratorial theme among the homeless population. A position such as this is absolutely territorial and superior. So what you’re saying is that homeless people are not people that deserve to take part in a facility that has been provided for the general public. That said, then they really aren’t people…not people who deserve to be respected and dealt with in a respectful manner…they’re intruding on your sacred turf.

      Now, before you go screaming about what a liberal I am, perhaps I should inform you where I’m coming from. I do not consider myself a liberal, nor do I consider myself a conservative. What I do consider myself is someone who believes in the integrity of individuals and the responsibility of individuals to respond to others as if they were on the same playing field. I dare say that your comments sound a bit (EDIT)

      You said that people wouldn’t have a problem with homeless people not bathing if they actually came in to read. Have you taken into consideration that many homeless people CANNOT read? Have you taken into consideration that many homeless people might be looking for a positive haven (and by this I do not mean place to sleep) where they can be accepted? Furthermore, have you taken into consideration that if a person was hygenically clean and couldn’t read that the response of you and your staff may be completely different?

      As far as leaving your children in a public place…that should be a moot point. Will you leave your child alone in a grocery store…at the courthouse…at the DMV…at the public rest-stop along I-95? I hope not.

      I come from a mental health perspective. I went into this field for the reason of caring for others. I think it remiss to propose that the responsibility is on the homeless person and not on those of us who may be able to change things. I submit to you that it might be time to undergo some training in dealing with difficult people (even mentally ill people), all the while understanding that you may not be able to manage every single person, but you will be able to impact some. Is it beyond your reach to take some responsibility in this effort toward change?

    2. Josh on September 30th, 2005 5:46 pm


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