D.C. libraries director Ginnie Cooper is courageously standing up against the advocates who fight for the homeless no matter what the impact of their behavior on other citizens. Cooper has announced new rules that, starting Feb. 1, will prohibit sleeping in the libraries or carrying more than two bags into any of the branches--rules obviously designed to discourage the homeless from camping out at tables where readers and researchers might want to work.
Yes. Beating up on a neglected section of the citizenry and the small troupe of advocates that attempt to help them takes Herculean courage. We have a lot of courageous people in this country.
Putting aside Fisher's juvenile rhetoric, we agree that a public library is not the ideal place for homeless residents to go. As former staff of a public library, I can say any person who comes into the library without the intent to research or learn is not using the resource for its intended purpose. I sympathize with the librarians who have the uncomfortable tasks of babysitter, hall monitor, and security guard to the swath of people who are shoved into libraries against their will (also including children and senior citizens). These are time-consuming tasks librarians have no formal training in that prevent them from doing the two things they're supposed to do: help patrons find materials and maintain the stacks.
But punishing homeless residents is absolutely wrong. Without providing any other solution or recourse, I wonder where the DC government expected people to go. What other space could homeless people use? DC has decided to close homeless shelters without a corresponding decrease in the homeless population. The remaining shelters push people out early in the morning despite inclement weather. DC has decided not to invest in day centers that would responsibly provide an alternative to libraries or park benches. DC has decided to continue to cut safety net services like housing that would also humanely get people off the streets (along with solving a number of other problems).
Instead of creating more obstacles for homeless people, and more arbitrary, incendiary rules to harass them, why not do the whole city a favor and fully fund the housing programs that have been set up and neglected? Blaming the homeless for using the library is like blaming a driver for using a broken parking meter. It makes no sense. The governing body that allows those situations to arise needs to be held responsible.