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Services to Poor and Homeless People

Task Force on Hunger, Homelessness & Poverty ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table

OLOS Subcommittee on Library Services to Poor and Homeless People

ALA’s Library Services to Poor and Homeless Policy #61

ALA’s Library Services to Poor and Homeless Policy #61 in Spanish

Classism in the Stacks. Sanford Berman, 2005 Jean E Coleman Library Outreach Lecture

National Coalition for the Homeless

Center on Hunger and Poverty

National Low Income Housing Coalition

State Coordinators for Homeless Education 

Patron Behavior in Libraries: A Handbook of Positive Approaches to Negative Situations
by Beth McNeil & Denise Johnson, published by ALA Editions, 1995, ISBN: 0-8389-0662-1
Fifteen experts share authoritative solutions to concerns such as homeless patrons who come to the library to sleep and young adults who come to the library to party. This must-have tool helps you identify and proactively respond to a variety of patron behavior problems as well as understand the legal implications of any actions taken. Chapters deal with sexual harassment, mentally ill patrons, implementing a patron behavior policy, and much more.

Managing Library Services to the Poor: An Annotated Bibliography
Compiled by Geoffrey Harder, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, 2001

Libraries and the Homeless: Caregivers or Enforcers
Article by Judi Silver, University of South Carolina
The Katharine Sharp Review ISSN 1083-5261, No. 2, Winter 1996
Conclusions drawn: Aside from the shelter it provides, if the library is keyed into the complex and multiple needs of homeless people, it can serve as an important center for the dissemination of vital knowledge that otherwise cannot be obtained without private ownership of books, periodicals, and newspapers.

Transfer: The Anti-Sit Archives
Photo archive of architectural anti-homeless measures.

Illegal to Be Homeless: 2004 Report
National Coalition for the Homeless
“This study documents the widespread trend of violations of the basic human rights of people experiencing homelessness in 179 communities in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Through the passage of possibly unconstitutional laws, the ‘selective enforcement’ of existing laws, arbitrary police practices, and discriminatory public regulations, people experiencing homelessness face overwhelming hardships in addition to their daily struggle for survival. Instead of spending precious public resources and funding to address the significant lack of affordable housing in this country, local governments in urban, suburban, and rural areas divert these funds to local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and to policing, which often penalize the very people this money could help. In addition to continuing the documentation of this trend, this report emphasizes the connections between the creation of a public environment of intolerance and the increasing danger of living on the streets that results from this attitude ...”

“Keeping the ‘Public’ in Public Space”
Project for Public Spaces (PPS)
“Public spaces have always gone hand in hand with commerce. Markets, vendors, and retailers are essential components of many a great place. But when does vibrant economic activity cross the line and become crass commercialization? Everywhere we look people who manage parks and squares are struggling with this question ...”

“Selling Out: Our Public Space, Universal Services Under Assault”
Ralph Nader
“ ... [The loss of free-standing library structures and their landscaping means families and individuals entering and leaving libraries must navigate between people with shopping bags and carts negotiating adjacent stores, parking, and all the noise. Commercial minds do not appreciate the sanctuaries of such public institutions. They do understand dependency, however, as well as the proverbial foot in the door toward privatization (better called corporatization) ...”

“The Copyrighting of Public Space”
New (Sub)Urbanism blog
“Millennium Park—a nascent destination for countless citizens and tourists that was built with $270 million in city funds—is slowly emerging as Chicago’s most privatized public space. Photographers beware! ...” [cont’d]

“People in the Streets: The Promise of Democracy in Everday Public Space”
Greg Smithsimon
“A key prerequisite for a democratic society, [public] settings are where we take organized political action, and meet and learn about the society of which we are a part. One challenge, for planners and improvers from the 1890s to today, has been to translate that article of faith into a compelling argument that public space is the rich soil from which a democracy society grows. Explaining public space’s crucial role—both for organized political activity and through its everyday uses—is crucial to building popular support for the development and protection of vital space that many Americans aren’t even sure they want ...”

"Sidewalk Democracy: Municipalities and the Regulation of Public Space”
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Evelyn Blumenberg, Renia Ehrenfeucht
“Today sidewalk democracy remains contested as design and regulatory strategies have serious constitutional implications for First Amendment speech and assembly rights ...”

"Exposure to Homeless Increases Sympathetic Public Attitudes”
American Sociological Association (
“In this study we looked at exposure through four dimensions: third-party information, observation in public places, interaction with homeless people, and having been or knowing someone who is or has been homeless. We found that all four forms of exposure promote sympathetic attitudes toward homelessness,” Lee continues. “Also, people who have more exposure to homelessness tend to attribute homelessness to structural causes as opposed to individual causes.

The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space
Don Mitchell
The Guilford Press (May 2003) ISBN: 1572308478

“This provocative work asserts that the right to public space is crucial to advancing the cause of justice. Complex yet comprehensible, the book balances the ideas of legal scholars, cultural theorists, and social scientists with Mitchell’s singular voice based on his extensive thinking and research in the area. Mitchell thoughtfully argues that the struggle for rights actually produces public space and thus insists that rights be taken seriously, especially by leftist scholars, as they are central to counteracting exclusionary practices and the pervasive power of the state. This book is especially appropriate for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on the city.”—Sallie A. Marston, Department of Geography and Regional Development, University of Arizona

Street People and the Contested Realms of Public Space
Randall Amster
LFB Scholarly Publishing (October 2004) ISBN: 1593320663

Foreword by Jeff Ferrell: “...a beautifully incendiary book, a book equal parts erudition and outrage.”

Description: This work explores the social and spatial implications of homelessness in America. Increasingly, commentators have lamented the erosion of public space, charting its decline along with the rise of commercialization and privatization. One result is the criminalization of homelessness, a phenomenon revealed here through participant observations, informal conversations, and in-depth interviews with street people, city officials, and social service providers. With an activist/researcher methodological orientation grounded in the tenets of anarchism, the author explores patterns and interconnections among: the impetus of urban development and gentrification; the enactment of anti-homeless ordinances and regulations; the material and ideological erosion of public space; and emerging forces of resistance to these trends. The text is at once a theoretical exposition of these concerns and a case study of how they have played out in the case of the downtown shopping district of Tempe, Arizona.

About the Author: Randall Amster, Professor of Peace Studies at Prescott College in northern Arizona, holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and a Ph.D. in Justice Studies from Arizona State University. He is co-editor of Lives in the Balance: Perspectives on Global Injustice and Inequality (Brill 1997), and has published recent articles in Social Justice, Peace Review, and Contemporary Justice Review.
Available from the publisher:


  • 1 INTRODUCTION: Meanings, Methodologies, Means and Ends
  • 3 "TEMPE IS FANTASY LAND!": Disneyfication and the Dystopian City
  • 4 FACING THE ’HOMELESS PROBLEM’: Skid Row, Survival, and the Road to Nowhere
  • 5 PATTERNS OF EXCLUSION: Sanitizing Space, Criminalizing Homelessness
  • 6 CASE IN POINT: A Genealogy of the Tempe SidewalkOrdinance
  • 7 FORCES OF RESISTANCE: Civil Rights Struggles and the Contested Realms of Public Space
  • 8 CONCLUSION: Localizing the Global, Globalizing the Local
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outreach, poor, poverty, homeless, low income