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Main library two-year closure raises concerns for the homeless

NOW: Main library two-year closure raises concerns for the homeless

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- A place some rely on for a break from the cold in the winter is closing its doors Friday.

The St Joseph County Public Library is closing the downtown branch for renovations until 2021, undergoing an almost $38 million expansion.

With the temperatures dropping, some worry the closure could have unintended consequences for the city’s homeless. Many visit the library daily to use the computers and warm up.

 “I know personally 30 to 40 that go there every day,” Debra Applegate said, an advocate for the homeless. “It’s not just weather related obviously they go there to stay warm but they use it to look for jobs, they us it to connect with family and friends.”

Applegate said it’s not the library’s job to care for the city’s homeless population but it is a little concerning knowing how many rely on the downtown location for shelter during the day time. She thinks the city should consider using the weather amnesty building as a daytime center. 

Thursday, the city opened its weather amnesty shelter at the old Salvation Army building on Main Street but that’s only open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Without a daytime shelter, Applegate said it’s likely the homeless will go to fast food establishments downtown to stay warm.

During renovations the library is being relocated temporarily to the Brown Intermediate Center. The center is a nine minute drive from the main library and a 55 minute walk.

While the temporary location at the Brown Intermediate Center is not on a Transpo bus route, five of the county’s library branches are. Library officials are hoping that will help those who rely on the Main Street library.

  • LaSalle Branch 3232 W Ardmore Trail South Bend, IN 46628 (Use Route 4/Yellow) Hours: M, W, F, Sat: 10AM-6PM, T & Th: 12PM-8PM, Sun: Closed
  • River Park Branch 2022 Mishawaka Avenue South Bend, IN 46615 (Use Route 9/Purple) Hours: M, W, F, Sat: 10AM-6PM, T & Th: 12PM-8PM, Sun: Closed
  • Tutt Branch 2223 Miami South Bend, IN 46613 (Use Route11/Red) Hours: M, W, F, Sat: 10AM-6PM, T & Th: 12PM-8PM, Sun: Closed
  • Western Branch 611 Lombardy Dr. South Bend, IN 46619 (Use Route 10/Green) Hours: M, W, F, Sat: 10AM-6PM, T & Th: 12PM-8PM, Sun: Closed
  • German Township Branch 52807 Lynnewood Avenue South Bend, IN 46628 (Use Route 3A/3B/Red) Hoours: M, W, F, Sat: 10AM-6PM, T & Th: 12PM-8PM, Sun: 1-5PM

Lisa O’Brien with the SJCPL said the library is planning on doing more outreach to those who rely on the library and they’re also currently working with the city to provide support material to those in need.

According to O’Brien, it was necessary to close down the entire main library for the renovations.

 “The whole building will be renovated so we just have to get out of the way so that can be done and we really just want to usher in that new library as quick as possible,” O’Brien said.

The plans for the new library include a three story community learning center facing Michigan Street complete with a courtyard.

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