The Carnegie Library has launched a housing and homelessness resource page on its Web site, timed to coincide with a "sleep-in" that advocates are holding in October to raise awareness and funds for those deprived of basic needs.
The money collected will benefit Community Human Services -- an organization that provides housing programs, street outreach and other services to homeless residents of Allegheny County.
The resource page is "part of the library's contribution," says Beth Lawry, the library's manager of customer services. "We've been asked to participate in a city-wide consciousness event. ... [The question is] how do you get out from the stereotypes and myths that there are?"
Lawry and other librarians compiled a reading list that confronts some of these misperceptions with stories that diverge from commonly held (but erroneous) images of the homeless population, including the books No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City.
The Web page (www.carnegielibrary.org/research/socialservices/homeless/) is one of three social-services resource pages on the library's Web site. It went live on Aug. 18, and provides both information on homelessness and tools for dealing with hard times.
Lawry, who has a background in communications and has worked with the service industry, was asked by organizers to represent the library on a planning committee for the sleep-in. Her input helps bring one the region's largest and most egalitarian information banks to the table.
She is joined on the committee by its chairwoman, state Sen. Jane Orie (R-Allegheny and Butler counties), and spokespeople from the service-provider industry and local colleges and universities.
"There was so much energy around when I threw this out," Lawry says. "The response from the staff was, 'Great, we need this.' Library workers really care about each individual and are very non-judgmental."
The site provides materials on homeless issues, including a film list that ranges from popular titles such as Will Smith's The Pursuit of Happyness to lesser-known documentaries like Dark Days, the story of a community living in a train tunnel underneath New York City.
The Web page also links to useful resources, including Allegheny County's Department of Human Services and a homeless-law blog (homelesslaw.wordpress.com).
At the top of the page, a banner advertises the upcoming "sleep-in" for the homeless -- an overnight event, which advocates are planning to hold in the City-County Building (414 Grant St., Downtown), on Oct. 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. the next morning.
"The idea of the whole sleep-in is to experience what it's like to be homeless," says Diane McMahon, an organizer of the sleep-in. "We're expecting between 250 and 500 [people]."
McMahon says that she's hoping to break people into groups to "talk about the different ways that people [become] homeless. Hopefully we'll have a representative from each of those [ways]." During the night, politicians and homeless individuals will be educating the crowd. On the lighter side, there will be music and other activities.
Registration for the sleep-in is free (and online, at www.chscorp.org), but organizers are asking participants to try to raise at least $25, which will benefit Community Human Services.
For Lawry, the library's resource page is another step in serving the underserved. "The interesting thing about a library to me is everyone's your constituent," she says. "You've got a pretty broad base."