Resources for Public Libraries Serving Persons Experiencing Homelessness

According to the U.S. Department of  Housing and Urban Development's 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), on a single night in January 2016, 549,928 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States. This population includes men, women, children, and families. They face a wide range of challenges including lack of affordable housing, employment opportunities, healthcare, and other needed services. As many public librarians know, with no safety net to speak of, homeless citizens often turn to the library for help. We’ve started this list of resources and related reading as a way to help libraries provide the best possible service to this group. We welcome your input!

PLA Resources

Public Libraries Online

Denver Public Library Works to Improve Library Safety by Alyson Iuchs (August 8, 2017)

A Patron By Any Other Name is Still a Patron by Sara Fiore (February 10, 2017)

Educating Homeless Youth in the Bronx by Andrew Hart (January 26, 2017)

Libraries Are a Lifeline by Kimberly Knight (December 29, 2016)

IDNYC – A Card with Many Benefits by Mary Beth Zeman (June 3, 2015)

Social Workers and Librarians Working Together by Mark Troknya (May 14, 2015)

Up All Night at the Public Library by Brian Smith (March 24, 2015)

A Little Extra Help – Why Public Libraries Need Social Workers by Jenna Nemec-Loise (September 23, 2014)

Library Service to the Homeless by Amy Mars (April 26, 2013)

Deposit Collections in Homeless Shelters by Sara Zettervall (February 12, 2013)


Public Libraries Magazine

Mental Health Training in Public Libraries by Josh Berk (November/December 2014 issue)

Whole Person Librarianship by Sara Zettervall (March/April 2015 issue)

Open All Night ("Forward Thinking") by John Spears (November/December 2014 issue, PDF, 2 pgs.)

From Crisis to Collaboration: Pima County Public Library Partners with Health Department for Library Nurse Program by Kenya Johnson, Amber Mathewson, and Karyn Prechtel (January/February 2014 issue)

Library Service to the Homeless by Amy Mars (March/April 2012 issue)

Public Libraries and the Homeless ("Perspectives") by several authors (November/December 2011 issue, PDF, 10 pgs.)

The Story of the H.O.M.E. Page Café (“Bringing in the Money”) by Lee Price (January/February 2009 issue, PDF, 3 pgs.)

Aiming High, Reaching Out, and Doing Good: Helping Homeless Library Patrons with Legal Information by Linda Tashbrook (January/February 2009 issue, PDF, 76 pgs.)


PLA Webinars

Understanding and Serving People Experiencing Homelessness: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Library Service – A Free Two-Part Webinar Series


ALA Resources

Outreach Resources for Services to Poor and Homeless People

Tool and Resources – Poor and/or Homeless Library Patrons

Social Responsibilities Round Table – Extending Our Reach – Reducing Homelessness Through Library Engagement (PDF, 8 pgs.)

Serving At-Risk Patrons: Lessons from Library Social Workers

A Home to the Homeless by Ellyn Ruhlman (American Libraries, November 24, 2014)


Additional Resources

The Pew Charitable Trusts – Enlisting Public Libraries to Fight Homelessness by Sophie Quentin (April 4, 2016)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Website

Homelessness in the United States (Wikipedia)

U.S. Homelessness Statistics – United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)

Housing and Urban Development – Office of Community Planning and Development – 2016 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress (November 2016)

National Alliance to End Homelessness – State of Homelessness Report (2016)