A recent USA TODAY story highlighted some of the ways that U.S. libraries are becoming more hospitable to the homeless in their cities.
The story explained that some libraries, while enforcing the standard rules of conduct and hygiene among homeless visitors, respond to homeless visitors with book clubs, movie days, computer training or referrals to social service agencies.
Like those libraries, the Springfield-Greene County Library District is sensitive to maintaining that delicate balance: Accommodate our homeless visitors while providing a safe and comfortable environment for all patrons.
It was a timely story for our community, given the recent work by the local Homeless Task Force to understand and address the issues of homelessness in Greene County. As task force co-chair Doug Pitt explained, “The issue of homelessness does not have a finish line.”
As a critical partner in community-building, the library district has a role to play. We don’t have it all figured out, but we have found some sensible, affordable ways to make our services accessible to the homeless once they have found reliable shelter. The library maintains book collections (library card not required) at sites such as The Kitchen and the Missouri Hotel. And residents who can provide proof of temporary residence may be eligible for a library card, giving free use of library public computers, books, music and movies.
Most important, we can help them prepare for the workforce through free keyboarding or computer skills classes at the Edge Community Technology Center. It’s on the lower level of the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library on 397 E. Central St., conveniently on the bus line.
The Edge also offers short personal development DVDs and CD-ROMs that people can listen to at their own pace. Topics include stress management, skills for working at a call center, how to give and take criticism, time management and many others.
The best endorsement came recently from Claire M., a resident of the Missouri Hotel. She paid this compliment to a Midtown Carnegie Branch library assistant: “…(Claire) said that…the Edge course offerings are more comprehensive than she has seen offered by other library systems. She is currently a resident of the Missouri Hotel and said that she plans to use the library to help her through her current situation.”
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