Helping the Homeless, One Book at a Time

Since June, 2011, Street Books has been providing a free library service to the homeless in Portland, Oregon. Using tricycles, founder Laura Moulton and her team of librarians ride through the city with a box of books attached to the trike. Everybody who checks out a book is recorded but not fined if they fail to return the book. The project is about sharing the love of reading and not about generating a profit.

At first glance you may be thinking that homeless people probably don’t want books. It’s more likely that they want food or money. But that is not necessarily the case. On their website,, you can see a short video of the work Moulton does. The smiles, laughter, and joy you see in the faces of the patrons leave no doubt that this project is worthwhile.

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We tend to forget that homeless people have a lot of time on their hands. Having a book to read can massively reduce the amount of boredom they feel and help them escape the situation they are in temporarily. A lot of times people who are homeless are suffering from some kind of mental or physical disability, or perhaps something on their record is preventing them from getting a job.

Homelessness opens the door for crippling depression and loneliness. The majority of human beings who come across the homeless are instantly disgusted and hide their eyes. No matter what that person has done to end up homeless, it will always hurt to not be accepted by society. As the pointed out, Association for Psychological Science, it is a natural animal instinct to feel attached to the herd.

That is why Laura Moulton’s work is so great. She is providing the outsiders of our society an opportunity to feel connected. As readers we know that books are stimulating to the mind. Exposing people to new ideas, new concepts, and new perspectives might just give them the edge they need to improve their situation. Next time you are looking to get rid of some old books, consider donating them to either Street Books or another organization. You never know the effect it may have for someone in need.

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