Homeless;Libraries;Programs;Your query

Morgan Brown (morganbrown@hotmail.com)
Thu, 18 Dec 1997 08:15:44 PST

Hello Maureen,

On: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 
Via: The HOMELESS DISCUSSION LIST <homeless@csf.colorado.edu>
You wrote:

"I am a library student at Dominican University in River Forest, 
Illinois. I would like to know what you like about the public 
libraries you have used. What programs would you like to see at the 
public library. How could the public library better serve people who 
are homeless?"

I'm sorry to be so tardy with my response to your request. I have 
wanted to respond sooner, but have been very busy. I'm sending this 
to you personally since I am no longer on the Homeless Discussion 
List. I am sending a copy to the Homeless People's Network f.y.i. and 
in case anyone there may care to comment further on this topic.

Some libraries have policies which discriminate against people who 
are homeless.At these and other libraries staff and the general 
public often have and display attitudes that seem to indicate that 
they would rather not have people who are homeless around them even 
when the person is doing nothing more than existing, surviving, 
keeping warm or safe and seeking shelter in a public place.
There are often various forms of hostility that are shown toward
someone who is homeless and people either are very defensive or in 
denial when called on their attitudes. They believe that they are 
justified in acting out these attitudes in a way that discriminates
against people who are homeless and others. 
There needs to be education of library staff and the general public
through the various library systems given by people who either are
homeless or are formerly homeless and also by people with disabilities,
especially people with psychiatric or cognitive disabilities/labels,
about the needs of people who are homeless and of people with 
disabilities. This should be in the form and spirit of sensitivity and
diversity training, etc.

In Vermont, many public libraries either have or are obtaining 
computers with online access. Sometimes, though, the limited funding
and computers online cause the creation of policies that limit some
people online who need more time online because of their needs for one
reason or another as result of circumstances beyond their control.
There should be programs and funding sought out to enable libraries
and other public entities, and also programs designed to assist people
who are homeless and programs (such as CIL's (Centers for Independent
Living)) designed to assist people with disabilities, so that these 
entities can obtain additional computers and online capabilities in
order that there be enough available so that people who need greater
access for one reason or another, and have none elsewhere except for
public sites, will be afforded the time and access that they may need.
Another need is to develop programs to help to tutor people on a one
on one basis in learning how to use computers and/or the internet, 
etc., if a person requests this assistance. Such a program should be
widely posted. Tutors should be selected and trained carefully. They
should be persons who are knowledgeable and highly patient and user 
friendly. They should always be very supportive and never cause
someone to feel or think that they are dumb or whatever. I found a
lot of help from kids and librarians, however librarians are usually
very busy and libraries too short staffed and help can be limited.
In Vermont, the Vermont Center for Independent Living (V.C.I.L.)
has two public access computers, with one allowed online at one time;
but this is only available, to my knowledge, in the Central Vermont
area. Many people, in rural areas, have no or very limited access.
The internet is a very useful tool if one can gain access and learn to
use it. Because of public access sites, web based free e-mail and
other services, I now can communicate and I have a home page, even 
though I am homeless, have no phone, no car and have very limited 
resources of my own. I find the resources on the internet very useful
to me. It also is helping to keep me going and alive.

Policies at public libraries should not discriminate against people
who are homeless or people with disabilities.

Morgan W. Brown <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Montpelier Vermont USA
Norsehorse's Home Turf: http://members.tripod.com/~Norsehorse/

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