Library Helps The Homeless

Hedberg Public Library staff in Janesville, Wisconsin, is serious about its mission to serve all residents, including those who are homeless, according to the GazetteXtra.

The staff provide a safe daytime haven so long as everybody follows the rules by respecting others’ rights and the library itself, said Michelle Dennis, circulation director of the library.

“We are very clear about the expectations of behavior for everybody who uses the library, and we try to restrict or limit people’s access only if their behavior warrants that,” said Dennis.

On most days, about a dozen homeless people use the services.

Thursday was a particularly nasty day with its mix of cold and snow, and winter clothing piled on a corner chair served as home base for a homeless man who spends his days at the library.  He is welcome at the library, and volunteers heat his lunch in the ground level coffee shop, said Bryan McCormick, library director.

Sometimes, someone just wants a quiet place to sit, Dennis said. Other times, they need resource materials.

The ground floor coffee shop is a popular place to hang out, along with a stretch of windows along the Rock River or in the lobby near the elevators.

Homeless people typically don’t create problems, especially since GIFTS (God Is Faithful Temporary Shelter) Men’s Shelter opened in Janesville, said Dennis.

GIFTS rotates nightly shelters for men between churches during the cold months. In November—the latest figures available—GIFTS served 51 guests with 727 shelter nights.

When GIFTS is at capacity, staff arranges sleeping elsewhere, such as in Madison or Walworth County shelters.

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