Urban libraries often have a hard time figuring out how to deal with the homeless. While libraries are open for all, too many homeless people loitering about can make libraries seem inhospitable to citizens who want to use the libraries as libraries rather than as homeless shelters.
Escondido, CA is apparently no exception to this, and it has created a task force to figure out what to do about the problem after people complained about the homeless loitering around the entrance.
Some people have been so put off by the library that they drive a whopping six miles over to the San Marcos Library, and Californians famously hate driving anywhere.
The smoking and loitering “has sharply increased since the city cracked down on crime and homelessness in nearby Grape Day Park last winter.”
Thus, an easy solution might be to just crack down on crime and homelessness on the library grounds. Maybe the city could declare a War on the Homeless and qualify for federal funds, since the feds love it when Wars are declared on things.
Of course this doesn’t get to the root of the problem, but dealing with the causes and effects of homelessness isn’t the library’s job. That’s somebody else’s job, but the job’s been abandoned for so long that we can’t say for sure who that somebody is.
A smoking ban is also under discussion, which would at least prevent the loiterers from fouling the air around the library entrance and throwing cigarette butts around. Won’t help with the homeless, though.
The oddest part of the discussion, and one that is hard to understand without some local knowledge, is the controversy over a coffee cart, which according to the story and its comments may or may not partially block the library entrance. Eliminating that is supposedly a popular idea with the board of trustees.
Are the homeless in Escondido really lining up to buy coffee from the library’s coffee cart and then hanging around to drink it? Could that really be the problem?
If anyone familiar with the situation in Escondido knows more about it, feel free to comment, but from a distance that looks like a silly way to deal with the homeless problem.
Other libraries without coffee carts have the same problems, and it seems hard to believe that people with no place to go would show up to the library, see the coffee cart was gone, and say “to hell with this, I’m going somewhere else! Maybe San Marcos!”
On the other hand, a homeless advocate led a petition drive to keep the coffee cart, so maybe that’s really the issue. The homeless just love their library coffee too much.
That guy “says the city would rather force its homeless residents to keep migrating than find any real solutions to the problem.” But how would eliminating the coffee cart force the homeless to keep migrating?
City officials claim the cart isn’t related to the homeless, even though getting rid of it seems to be linked somehow. They claim that “that customers smoke and leave litter on the ground.”
Unless the coffee cart is selling them cigarettes, which I doubt, how is that the fault of the cart? Wouldn’t a smoking ban or a few strategically placed ash cans be more likely to solve those problems?
The advocate claims it’s also a good place for people to get coffee and snacks if they’re at the library a long time. Google Maps indicates the nearest coffee shop is 4 blocks away, so that’s a good point.
Something tells me Kettle Coffee and Tea probably serves better coffee than the library coffee cart, but they probably don’t allow the homeless inside.
Regardless of what happens, one thing is clear. Homelessness and the homeless aren’t a library problem. They’re a community problem, and the only reason the library is having to deal with it is because the community has refused to.
Maybe the solution is to just close the library. Then nobody will have to worry about homeless people loitering around drinking coffee. That’s a lot easier than dealing with the real homeless problem.