MLK To Close for 3 Years With No Regard to Homeless

Press Alert: District Library Dynamos via DC4RD
For Immediate Release: Chris Otten 202 810 2768

“Systematic Failure” to Protect the Homeless by Council and DC Public Library Leadership; Testimony at Recent Council Hearing Requests Postponement of MLK Library Closure

Washington, DC — On Wednesday, February 22, 2017, the DC Council Committee on Education held a public oversight hearing with regards to Martin Luther King Library.

In his opening statement, Committee Chair, Councilmember David Grosso, says the library “embraces diversity” and has been “incredibly responsive” to the committee.

Despite the glowing praise from Grosso, as of today, no one knows what the great many homeless folks who currently use the library as a safe space will do when MLK library is closed for a 3-year modernization program.

For many who testified, the deep concern about homeless day services while MLK is closed was rationale to request a pause in the closure of the library until a plan is in place that serves as an interim refuge during the day to stay out of the elements, to use computers and job services and access other public resources for homeless residents.

The President of the MLK Library, Robin Diener wrote to Councilmember Grosso and the Council Committee, “In 2014, MLK Library Friends held a conference on Homelessness and Public Libraries. We hoped it would jumpstart thinking about options for homeless users when MLK would be under renovation. … As reported by DHS at the last library community design meeting, nothing has been found [by way of an interim downtown day refuge for the homeless] and we now have what appears to be a crisis in the making.”

The President and CEO of Catholic Charities, Father John Enzler in reference to the closure of MLK library recently tweeted, “This will be a long 3 years for those living at the margins – hard to find places away from cold/heat (and internet) when u are homeless.”

Eric Sheptock, self-titled “The Homeless Homeless Advocate” calls the lack of planning a “systemic failure” to help homeless people.

Susan Haight, President of the Federation of Library Friends, testified to Grosso that there is, “no concrete plan to accommodate the homeless,” while MLK is closed for renovations. Haight said, “Work needs to be done there,” urging Grosso, “to use [the Council] influence to ensure a plan is in place,” for the homeless before it closes.

As of the time of this alert, there is no plan in writing for interim homeless day services in lieu of the 3-year closure of MLK Library.


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