Provision by the cultural sector for homeless people
With poverty and homelessness on the rise in the UK, libraries, archives and museums perform several vital functions. They are open and available for people to use, often outside the ‘normal’ office hours; they provide free access to information which the homeless person may need to survive (such as the location of foodbanks and other resources, as Newcastle City Libraries does); they provide free access to books and other materials (often not asking for proof of address for restricted library membership for those without fixed addresses); they are places where homeless people can sit and read (and use other facilities) without constantly being ‘moved on’ as they would be in a coffee shop or shopping mall; and they provide online access, for example to job searches, benefits information, and, in some cases, to families and friends.
In response to an enquiry in October 2016, The Network has pulled together examples of work being undertaken by libraries and archives.
Also in October 2016, The Spectator published an article about the Quaker Homeless Action mobile library, "What booksmean to rough sleepers – and the library that helps them".
In October 2017, Manchester Libraries and Lifeshare announced a pilot scheme which "will allow people who are being helped by homeless charity Lifeshare to register for a library card without a permanent address."
A Homeless History of Newcastle: "We're delighted to announce the launch of an ambitious new project exploring the history of homelessness in Newcastle upon Tyne. Working with the charity Crisis and with the support of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project will run throughout 2018, uncovering stories of homeless people living in the city from the 1860s to the present. This will be the first project to explore the history of a city from the perspective of homeless people. It will give voice to these people and uncover their experiences over 150 years, from the workhouse to the welfare state. The project will be led by a team of Crisis members with experience of homelessness who will work with researchers, museums professionals and volunteers from the local community to research archives and shine a spotlight on a forgotten part of Newcastle’s past. Together the project team and volunteers will curate, design and build an exhibition opening in winter 2018. This exhibition will highlight historical stories of homelessness in Newcastle, backed up by material uncovered during our research, to give an alternative perspective on Newcastle’s rich history. Throughout the project, public events will offer a creative and insightful interpretation of the stories we uncover and open up a dialogue on what this history can tell us about the situation today."
The Guardian published an article in April 2018, which looks at the positive role that libraries play in supporting homeless people - and the threat to this posed by cuts to services.
Provision outside the UK
- In Jan 2017, WebJunction featured Facebook posts from US libraries that connect with community members experiencing homelessness, as well as a case study of Henry County Library System, Georgia, where the library takes part in a summer lunch programme; in Jan 2016, they pulled together examples of work from across the US, "Serving Youth Experiencing Homelessness", which also includes links to resources from the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association, and other articles.
- The IFLA Library Services to People with Special Need Section is developing Guidelines for Library Service to People Experiencing Homelessness, and their session at the recent World Library and Information Congress was devoted to presentations on this project.
- In Aug 2017, Ian Anstice posted an interview with Rachael Rivera, "A home for the homeless: Rachael Rivera and the Auckland Library Streeties", which outlines the work Auckland Libraries are doing with homeless people, including regular cinema screenings.
- In June 2018, American Libraries published Ryan J Dowd "The librarian's guide to homelessness: advice for managers and leaders", some suggested tactics to make libraries' work with homeless people - and other library users - more effective.