A writing professor is hoping to give homeless people in Portland, Oregon, fodder for more stimulating conversations by giving them access to literature.
Laura Moulton cycles around Portland, Oregon, with her mobile library, called Street Books, every week to distribute all types of genres to over 5,000 patrons. And she’s garnering quite a reputation among the locals.
“Being recognized and spoken to on the street and offered a book for someone who has really been struggling can be a really powerful thing,” Moulton told Nation Swell. “Books have the power to have us feel empathy and have us experience the thrill of a journey of someone else.”
Moulton said borrowing books from libraries can be extremely difficult for the homeless—they lack the required documents to get a library card, such as identification and a home address. Their everyday lives make it hard for them to return books on time, or in good condition, triggering hefty fines they cannot pay, she said.
Heather, a patron, said she picked out three books in the first week and read them all. “I anxiously awaited her [Moulton’s] next arrival,” she said in a video on the Street Books website. “I value books like gold. And the fact that they don’t charge people for anything, even if they lose the books—that’s amazing.”
Bentley, who is a Dan Brown fan, said he loves the literature offerings.
“It is knowledge and wisdom, and who wouldn’t want to be a wise man?” he said.
Moulton started Street Books as a summer art project in 2011 and it has now grown to a team of seven to help peddle the books to the literary inclined. The project receives grants and book donations.
At first, the naysayers doubted that the books would be returned, Moulton said on her website.
“To be honest, we didn’t know whether or not this was true,” she wrote. “We decided to operate the library on the assumption that people living outside have more pressing concerns than returning a library book, and that every time a return came in, it would be cause for celebration.”
Now, five years into the program, the website says, “we have a solid rate of return among our regular patrons, and those who can’t return the books (due to rain damage or theft), often seek us out to tell us why they can’t.”
If patrons can’t get hold of her, for whatever reason, she said she urges them to pass books along to someone else who might also enjoy reading it.
To learn more about Street Books and its patrons watch the video below: