America gone wrong: A slashed safety net turns
"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," writes Chip Ward.*
libraries into homeless shelters
"The cost of this mad system is staggering. Cities that have tracked chronically homeless people for the police, jail, clinic, paramedic, emergency room, and other hospital services they require, estimate that a typical transient can cost taxpayers between $20,000 and $150,000 a year. You could not design a more expensive, wasteful, or ineffective way to provide healthcare to individuals who live on the street than by having librarians like me dispense it ...
"For that kind of taxpayer money, we could get our mentally ill off the streets and into stable housing environments with enough leftover for the kinds of support services most of them need to stay off the street. Again, the right thing to do for them may also be the most practical choice for us. We could solve the problem for less than it costs to manage it."
Read the whole article here (it's long, but it's worth it).
For more from the librarian's perspective, check out the blog @ the library.
Okay, I'm seeing things a little differently now. I'll admit to feeling frustration and even outrage at the way some of my homeless clients have been treated at the library. One has been banned for a year because he fell asleep. Another (who is developmentally disabled) actually did 29 days in jail for trespassing in the library. I'm still troubled about the way they were treated, but maybe I understand a little more about why it happened.
* Chip Ward recently retired as the assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System to devote more time to political activism and writing.