Libraries Are the New Homeless Shelters

A very short book excerpt
Snvv/Shutterstock

One community facility that has been profoundly affected by the deinstitutionalization of mentally ill individuals and our failure to provide treatment for them are the public libraries. Many libraries have become day centers for mentally ill people who are homeless or living in board-and-care homes. A 2009 survey of 124 public libraries, randomly selected from all parts of the United States, asked about “patrons who appear to have serious psychiatric disorders.” The librarians reported that such individuals had “disturbed or otherwise affected the use of the library” in 92 percent of the libraries and “assaulted library staff members” in 28 percent. Eighty-five percent of the libraries had had to call the police because of the behavior of such patrons. This included benign activities such as a “patron rearranging reference books by size and refuses to stop” and less benign activities such as a man running “through the circulation area, near the children’s department, repeatedly without clothing.”

— From American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System (published by Oxford in October)

Presented by

The Man Who Owns 40,000 Video Games

A short documentary about an Austrian gamer with an uncommon obsession

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Health

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In