A patron collects himself after being asked to leave for sleeping in the Everett Public Library on Wednesday afternoon. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A patron collects himself after being asked to leave for sleeping in the Everett Public Library on Wednesday afternoon. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Everett Public Library faces challenge of homelessness

EVERETT — A number of incidents involving homeless people at the main branch of the Everett Public Library have city officials taking steps to help make visitors feel safer in the building.

At the same time, Everett has tried to balance those actions, including an increased police presence, with ensuring the library remains open to everyone, including people without homes.

“Some of them cause trouble, and some of them come in and read the newspaper or use the computers,” said library director Eileen Simmons.

The presence of homeless people at the library is nothing new. Everett does not have a day center for homeless adults. Once the Everett Gospel Mission closes its doors in the morning, the library is one of the few public places available that has heat, running water and electricity.

But some recent incidents, including drug overdoses and vandalism, were more disturbing for the library staff and patrons.

“People had bad reactions to drugs and had to be taken out of here on gurneys,” Simmons said.

“My staff are trained to work in a library, but they’re not social workers, they are not EMTs, they are not police,” she said.

Everett has been working on several initiatives to tackle street crime more effectively and to address some of the root causes of homelessness. Hil Kaman, Everett’s Director of Public Health and Safety, said that’s involved the input and work of all the city departments and staff.

The city’s long-term focus has been on building housing and making more treatment options available. At the same time, many public areas, such as the library, Everett Station and city parks, have more immediate problems.

At Everett Station, for example, the doors on bathroom stalls were removed for a time to discourage drug use, before the city realized that step also contributed to travelers’ sense of unease. The station has since upgraded security in other ways, with more security cameras and police presence.

This month, Everett police began patrolling the library during the high-traffic afternoon hours after the city approved overtime for the officers. The library staff also has been given more training on how to deal with disruptive people.

The wireless internet network is now turned off at night and exterior electrical outlets were covered to discourage people from loitering or camping outside the building. The city’s facilities staff has been considering changes to the landscaping on the property for the same reason, Simmons said.

The staff have installed new exterior doors on the restrooms with large windows. The doors to the stalls were reduced in height to 58 inches, something the Seattle Central Library also did, Kaman said.

Those two steps should discourage drug use in the library without compromising patrons’ privacy, Simmons hopes.

“We have to try something,” she said.

The library also plans to hire a second security guard and to reorganize the checkout area so the office staff can better see comings and goings of visitors.

All of the measures being put into place are intended to focus on problem behaviors rather than any specific population.

“We’ve been working with the library really for several years now, trying out programs to take on a challenge that’s evolving,” Kaman said.

Simmons said she hopes those steps will enhance security at the library without impacting the needs of patrons, including those who are homeless.

“If you’re living on the street, there really isn’t any other public option to use the restroom or get out of the weather,” she said.

“We hope we can make it so that people feel safe,” Simmons said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Closing this bedroom door during an apartment fire in Everett helped contain flames, smoke and carbon monoxide, firefighters say. (Everett Fire Department) 20220120
Crucial move during Everett fire: Closing the bedroom door

Two residents were rescued from a bedroom at the Riverdale Apartments. In all, three were injured.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Regulators OK doubling of composting operation in Stanwood

Lenz Enterprises can now handle 150,000 tons a year. Residents worry odors will be a problem.

An alleged impaired driver hit and killed two adults Thursday morning at the intersection of 204th Street NE and Highway 9. (Arlington Police Department)
2 pedestrians die after being hit by allegedly impaired driver

The two adults were struck in Arlington around 2:30 a.m. Thursday at an intersection on Highway 9.

Police respond in downtown Everett after a man collapsed with a gunshot wound Nov. 27, 2021. He later died. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Everett police continue to investigate November killing

Jerome Burnett, 48, died at the hospital. A suspect fled, according to police.

Judge: Sex abuse of former Marysville student violated law

A woman sued the district last year, accusing a longtime art teacher of sexual abuse in the 1980s.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Democrats ready to ditch the other ‘grand bargain’ of 2021

Here’s what’s happening on Day 10 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

Darrell Cain, Pierce College Puyallup president and incoming Everett Community College interim president
Pierce College Puyallup president picked to lead EvCC for now

Everett Community College’s board chose Darrell Cain as its interim president.

Michael Jensen, left, and Nathan Jensen, right, pick up trash in their encampment that they being forced to clear out of by Parks Department the near Silver Lake on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Annual homeless count could shed light on pandemic’s impact

Snohomish County canceled its 2021 point-in-time count. Officials hope this year’s will bring clarity.

vote
Ballots sent for special election on public schools’ funding

Levies to pay for staff, programs, computers and capital projects are on the Feb. 8 ballot across Snohomish County.

Most Read