Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Good Library

I spend a lot of time in libraries. They serve as my office. Here are some thoughts on how to find a library that meets your needs.

You can start your research online. Google up library information for an area you are interested in. I like looking for a library system where some branches are open 7 days a week. I have also found that if their shortest day is 5 hours instead of 4, that helps make sure I can keep charged up.

You may also be able to find information online concerning things like number of public PCs and usage policies. Some libraries are more flexible than others.

But some information cannot be found online, such as how many outlets are available and how friendly the staff is. Some library staff actively look for BS excuses to evict homeless individuals. Others are genuinely supportive and considerate.

So, at some point, you need to physically go to different branches and see how well it works for you.

If you have a laptop, tablet or smartphone, you should be able to plug in (assuming they have outlets -- some do not) and use the Wi-Fi without a library card. You can also read books without checking them out without a library card.

If you want to check out materials (I do not) or use the public computers (I do), you will need a library card. This typically requires ID and an address.

Some things that can be problematic:

Libraries that are not genuinely public property.

I have been to a couple of branches (on in Oceanside) that was renting space in a shopping center. This is problematic in part because security is more likely to run you off while waiting for it to open.

Unfriendly staff.

We referred to one library as "(head librarian's name) Dungeon" because she was so awful. Her staff hated her too. We figured this out after she basically ran us off from her branch because it was just one branch of a system where the staff rotated around the system to other branches. Once staff in another branch figured out she hated us, they were even nicer to us, apparently to get her goat because she had far less power there than on her home turf.

Not near food.

Since we spend all day at the library doing freelance work and developing our projects, etc, we need to eat lunch and do snacks. A good library will be near eateries and shopping that work well for us.

Bonus:

If it is near food and has good outdoor spaces conducive to doing lunch conveniently, this is awesome. It is also nice if it is not overly far from a good camp site.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Finding the Services You Need

It is really hard to Google the information you need with regards to homeless services. I have had a college class in online search, and I spend a bunch of time online regularly and have for years. I still have trouble trying to Google up information I need when I am in a pickle or trying to find information for someone else who is homeless when I am answering questions in various online forums.

Websites for charities and homeless services tend to be donor-facing. In other words, the website exists to tell well-off people "We do good work. Please support our mission. Here is how to give money or volunteer here, etc."

Such websites tend to NOT be a very good source of information about services available on the ground that you, as a homeless individual, need to access. Even if they do say "We do X," they very often have a phone number and that's it.

You then have to call to find out when and where you need to go. When you do physically show up, they may not have the thing you thought they had based on what you read online or heard over the phone.

When I was homeless in downtown San Diego, the state of the art for getting information into the hands of actual homeless individuals was word of mouth and paper handouts. The handouts were full of errors and it was problematic for many reasons, starting with the fact that they can get wet and then you can't read it.

It is all kinds of terrible. This is why I ended up starting this website: To keep track of the information I needed for myself. Then, to my surprise, it attracted organic traffic.

That is the entire reason this site exists at all: Because it is so hard to find the information you need online if you are homeless. In fact, it can be hard to find it even by phone or by going there in person.

But, my point is that what you need to do is find out where there are homeless services, physically go there and talk to someone and tell them what you need and get their paper handout with information about what is locally available.

You may be able to start by asking another homeless person. They are sometimes the best source of information on what services exist in the city in question.

There may be a service that can help you. But you probably can't find out the name and address of it and the hours that they do this on the internet. Generally speaking, the way that you get that info is you physically go to some place with services and you talk to people and pick up handouts and follow the bread crumb trail until you find the right agency that does the thing that you need done.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Generally speaking, you will have better luck finding services in big cities. This is part of why you see high rates of homelessness in big cities: Because that is where the soup kitchens and services are. So, some homeless individuals travel to the big city in order to access services, then they stay because they don't have resources for commuting and they may not have anyplace in particular that they need to be.