My public library has a problem, and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s neither our unruly nor our drunken customers (which is what we call patrons). It’s also not those same people and others who loiter around our doors, often sitting and smoking or talking loudly with one another. It’s not even the homeless individuals that hang about our walls, wander into our buildings, and doze on the square adjacent to our library. No, it’s the fucking classical music blaring at airplane takeoff levels being played every half hour to “discourage” all of the above.
Now no one knows that this music is being played at these decibel levels for this reason; no one’s ever explicitly said so. It’s just the Parks and Recreation Department injecting a bit of sophistication into our every day lives. The homeless, drunken, and addicted, and the many complaints people have about them play no factor whatsoever into this situation. Of course not.
But everyone knows the truth. Everyone knows that this is just another attempt to “clean up” our city without doing any real effort to make these people’s lives better. It’s an open secret, and it’s bullshit.
We have all encountered a homeless, drunk, or addicted person that makes us uncomfortable. We dislike stepping over them on the stairwell or smelling their urine or getting a faceful of their latest boozy breakfast. It is anxiety-inducing to watch a person stumble towards you and have to plaster on a smile, ask if you can help them, and endure an incoherent and perhaps aggressive ramble.
But these things happen, and just because a few people make you uncomfortable is no reason to stop treating them like human beings. When you see a person that looks homeless, on drugs, or drunk, you shouldn’t spit at them or line your benches with spikes or arrest them or beat them – you should try to figure out a way to help them, and the very first way to do that is by treating them with respect and dignity, not chasing them away with Bach on at full blast.
It is a disgrace that my city would rather waste time, electricity, and resources to harass people instead of helping them. You know what would be a better use of these same resources? Opening up another homeless shelter. Hiring additional social workers for the library and other nearby businesses. Initiating a “pay it forward” program at the local Panera were people buy an extra meal, cookie, or coffee for any person that wants to come in and claim it. Training police officers to engage with these people so that they can talk to them about their lives and give them some additional support. Employing them at any of our fine locations so they have somewhere to go and some way to make money. Financing a mobile shower unit so itinerant people can have somewhere to get clean. Any of these options is better than telling people without homes that, nope, you can’t stay here, this is another place that doesn’t want you, go away, get a job, stop bothering “decent” people.
Now, I’m not sure how to stop this shitty practice. I haven’t even been able to confirm that it is the Parks and Recreation Department. So the first step is figuring that out. The second step is finding someone to complain to. And after that, I give them hell because homeless and addicted people have enough things to worry about – they should be able to sit where they want in peace.