Public libraries supporting people experiencing homelessness

Yarra Libraries outreach service at Richmond, Victoria. Photo credit: Jane Garner, February 2022

This year I am starting a three-year project funded by the Australian Research Council that will allow me to explore how public libraries can best support people experiencing homelessness or insecure housing. The project has the following aims:

  1. To understand the service, resource and environmental needs of the Australian homeless community that could be met by public libraries in our urban, regional, and remote contexts.
  2. To understand the attitudes and concerns of public library staff, and non-homeless library users in Australian urban, regional, and remote contexts relating to the homeless community being present in their libraries.
  3. To understand the attitudes of Australians experiencing homelessness in urban, regional, and remote contexts towards public libraries.
  4. To optimise the relationships between homelessness service agencies and public libraries in Australian urban, regional and remote communities through strong public policy.
  5. To build theoretical frameworks and public policy foundations that support the design of public library services, resources and environments to meet the needs of the Australian homeless community in our urban, regional and remote contexts.

During the project, I will be working with two urban communities including a group of men currently living in prison but coming to the end of their sentences, two regional communities, and two remote communities. Each of these will be located in Australia. People leaving prison are an important group for this project as most people who leave prison are doing so without a home to go to, and this is a major factor in why so many people return to prison within two years of their release.

Right now I am at the very start of the project and have been spending some time reading about what we already know about how public libraries are working to support people experiencing homelessness, and also spending some time with public library staff in Australia and New Zealand who are currently offering such services.

To keep track of the work I am doing and what I am learning, I have started a blog called ‘Library Services for People Experiencing Homelessness’ that can be read here: https://librariesandhomelessness.blogspot.com/

If you are interested in this topic, you are welcome to head over there and follow along with my work.

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