Moving beyond their old-fashioned image as book custodians where librarians shush people for talking too loud, libraries have evolved to serve as community centers, staffed with social workers and offering programs from meals to job counseling.
Libraries are magnets for the homeless since they are public, free, centrally located and quiet. They also are safe, a major draw given that 337 homeless people have been killed in hate crimes in the last 15 years, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
“(Libraries) are on the front line whether they want to or not,” said Jeremy Rosen, director of advocacy at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an advocacy group.
What some of the libraries are doing is phenomenal,” said David Pirtle, who was once homeless and now gives speeches for the National Coalition for the Homeless.
He said libraries were more welcoming than a decade ago, when some sought to limit access for the homeless. The homeless also are more willing to work with librarians and security officers, Pirtle said.
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