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Public Libraries Turning into Shelters for the Homeless in the US

As the problem of the chronically homeless mounts in the US, the public libraries in that country are slowly turning into de facto daytime shelters. //

In bad weather -- hot, cold, or wet -- most of the homeless have nowhere to go but public places.

The local shelters push them out onto the streets at six in the morning and, even when the weather is good, they are already lining up by nine, when the library opens, because they want to sit down and recover from the chilly dawn or use the restrooms.

There are at least 200,000 people across the nation living more or less permanently on the street, enough to fill a thousand public libraries every day.

Worse most of the "chronically homeless" are mentally ill, say activists.

The published data on how many homeless are considered mentally ill varies widely from 10% to 70%, depending on whether all the homeless, or just the chronically homeless, are included. And how does one categorize alcoholics and drug addicts is another question.

It's a chicken-or-egg world for the mentally-ill homeless. Are they on the street because they are immobilized by severe depression or is deep depression the consequence of being on the street?

Any tendency towards a psychological problem is aggravated and magnified by the constant stress, social isolation, loss of self-esteem, despair, and relentless boredom of street life.

Imagine the degradation of waiting an hour in the cold rain to get into a soup kitchen for a meal; the hassle of hunting endlessly for an unpoliced spot to sleep; the constant fear of being robbed or attacked by other street people; or the indignity of defecating in a vacant lot.

It's a combination that would probably drive a mentally healthy person to psychosis and substance abuse. Street people, who suffer serious psychological disorders, are often substance abusers, too.

In such a backdrop the publi
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