85°Mostly Cloudy

Homeless and Advocates Protest MLK Library Closing March 4th.

by Prince Of Petworth March 7, 2017 at 3:30 pm 31 Comments

9th and G St, NW

“Dear PoPville,

As I’m sure you know, the Martin Luther King, Jr Mem. Library closed March 4th for three years, leaving hundreds of homeless without a good centrally located place to go and get services during the day, when the shelters are closed. Would you please consider posting this quick video of protestors outside MLK as the doors were finally closing?”

  • So what do you think should happen? No library renovations? You taking homeless people into your home? Seriously – give us your solution.

    • ParkViewneighbor

      yeah… call me heartless but this is a library, where people go to borrow or read books. I understand this is a stop-gap solution to have homeless people come into the library during the day but this is not a shelter. DC needs to find long-term solutions to address the issue and allow people to use the library as intended.
      Why don’t we just let homeless people use the office of the mayor then?

      • FridayGirl

        “DC needs to find long-term solutions to address the issue and allow people to use the library as intended.”
        I’m empathetic but also +1 to this. It shouldn’t be on the library to deal with the homeless population. It should be on the city.

      • eva

        I can’t remember a time when libraries weren’t primarily full of homeless people. Even when I was a kid in the burbs the library population was half homeless men and half other patrons at any given time, and significantly moreso in the winter. I like visiting libraries when I’m in other cities around the US and there are some where I have felt like the only patron who was NOT experiencing homelessness. The main Albuquerque library comes to mind. For better or worse, libraries are one of the last remaining open public spaces that don’t turn this population away during opening hours.

      • Hill Denizen

        Libraries are much more about reading books, especially these days. They’re a place for people from all walks of life to have access to a variety of information and enriching services, whether it’s job training, research databases, meeting spaces, or internet access. I agree with the rest of your statement though, but as a librarian’s daughter, I just had to give my two cents.

        • Hill Denizen

          much more THAN about reading books…ugh.

          • ParkViewneighbor

            Yeah I know, just wanted to be short here ;)

  • Anon

    I think you came to the wrong place if you want sympathy for the changing of the guard outside of this place.

  • Morton

    With 25 other public library locations all over town, I think the solution is very simple.

  • Alex

    DHS has put transportation in place on a loop to get homeless folks affected to services throughout the city. They’re expanding the hours and capacity of the Adams Place Day Center, and DC churches have committed to expanding hours too. This renovation was in the works for years, with plenty of notice to the community and service providers.

    What exactly are the advocates protesting and asking for?

    • Hill Denizen

      Seriously. They’re not closing the library for good. They’re making much needed improvements that will benefit everyone.

      • Anonymous

        And the library has been very public with its plans–and in contact with those providing services to the homeless so they could plan ahead. This is very weird.

        • HaileUnlikely

          I think that is literally true but is of little salve to the individuals who will be impacted directly (the actual homeless people, not those who provide other services to them in other parts of the city and at other times of day). Obviously, the renovation is going to proceed. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with an individual or group voicing their displeasure with it, though.

  • HillEast

    Demanding Concessions, Bums Threaten To Leave Town

    • Mark

      Bums is a pretty crude term to describe people that have fallen through our meager social safety net. You think people choose to be homeless?

      • Anon Spock

        Some do in fact. I’m sure that’s a very small portion, but yes, it happens.

        • HaileUnlikely

          That has all the merit of defending a sweeping generalization about “Muslims” or “gays” or “women” on the grounds that it happens to be true for a fraction of one percent of them (“Some of them do!”)

          • FridayGirl

            +1. It does happen but the fact is that most of them don’t and we should act in accordance to that, rather than the very very very small minority.

  • bruno

    Sheprock (video commentator) has been around for years….. he is a professional homeless person at this point. Used to have a blog about The Franklin Shelter. He was upset when that was shuttered.

  • kapitolhill

    Honestly… these protesters can pound sand. I pay taxes and want them to go to updating DCPL facilities.

  • DCLibrarian

    Libraries being used as de facto daytime shelters is a controversial topic that comes up frequently in library school. Public libraries should welcome all people regardless of housing status, but it gets tricky when overwhelming numbers of homeless patrons end up driving away other patrons, who also have a right to be there. I think this is the case at the MLK library, which is why I never go there unless I absolutely must. I’ve twice been followed into the library by one of the loiterers outside, had a man make lewd slurping noises inches from my face, and been leered at and catcalled countless times. It’s like walking through a gauntlet.

    As a librarian, I support open access to the public, but I also think you lose your right to be in the space if your actions interfere with other patrons’ use of the library. I don’t have an issue with homeless patrons reading, studying, using technology, or even sleeping, because their actions don’t impact my use of the library. I do have an issue with a man following me from table to table, muttering under his breath, while I try to find a quiet place to read.

    • Hill Denizen

      Could any of those things be mitigated by a larger security or police presence at the library?

      • JoDa

        Librarian and your comments in conjunction are how Seattle made their (incredibly impressive) newish Central library a real gem. They increased security staff to enforce the rules of conduct, and the Central library, while obviously hosting a good number of homeless people when I visited, was a pleasant place to be.
        Now, their rules and enforcement aren’t without controversy. Large bags are prohibited, so some have argued that certain homeless people just don’t go to the library because they’d have to leave their possessions unattended and, likely, have them stolen or thrown away (though, I will note, Seattle has free public lockers where homeless individuals can safely store their stuff…something that DC REALLY should have!). Extremely smelly patrons can be told to leave – but given information about where they can shower for free. And, while they swear that they simply wake patrons who are sleeping, a couple dozen people are told to leave the library for *repeatedly* sleeping every year.
        On the flip side, the Central library has an on-site social services office where people can get information on and help with shelter, food bank, mental health, and other social service options/services. If I recall correctly from reading their signs when I visited, they have some licensed social workers on staff for a number of hours each day.
        Nothing we could do would be without *some* controversy, but it did seem that Seattle was splitting the difference fairly well. So long as you didn’t smell incredibly bad, didn’t have a massive pile of bags with you, and weren’t disruptive, you were welcome to come in, get warm (or cool, but that’s not as much of a problem in Seattle as it is here), rest but not sleep (I’m not that bothered by someone dozing in a chair, so maybe just a rule about not lying down), and use the library services. If you needed help, it was available on site.

    • Anon

      This really echoes my thoughts. I don’t have a problem with homeless people per se. But there is a large overlap of homelessness and mental health issues. And I get that it’s very complicated – no one chooses to be mentally ill, there is a derth of mental health services, etc etc. But when I have someone targeting me, harassing me, whatever – it’s not okay just bc they are homeless and/or mentally ill.

  • Vered

    No one is crazy about closing OUR library, we are all inconvenienced. We all have to use the other libraries for the nonce. I mean, get over yourselves, why doncha.

  • Stink eye

    There is nothing more off putting than a group of people complaining about free resources. I sure am sorry you might have to pack it in a bit at any of the other free libraries or heaven forbid you have to break your routine…

  • ML

    Using a library as a homeless shelter is a disservice to the libraries and to the homeless.

  • bruno

    BTW, were this black box torn down and redeveloped, I would not protest.

  • Jon

    Beggars can’t be choosers.

  • marianthelibrarian

    As a former employee of MLK library, this building is in serious need of major repair. Trash cans were kept in hallways to catch water leaking from the ceiling, it was regularly over 80 degrees in the staff offices, and once, no joke, my co-worker was about 10 seconds away from a giant ceiling tile falling on her head. It is to the point where the building is unsafe because it is so in need of updating. I empathize with the homeless population, but there are currently 20+ branches they are welcome to visit in the city. When the building reopens a few years from now, it will be a better space for everyone, homeless or not.

  • phogoodness

    I used to go to this library regularly 7-10 years ago, but not so often recently due to moving further away but also the increasing unwelcoming atmosphere in front of the library. I’m glad it’s getting the renovation it badly needs.


Subscribe to our mailing list