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Community Forums on Homelessness

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Community Forums on Homelessness

Dallas Public Library, Texas

Race and Social Equity | 2018

Innovation Summary

The Dallas Public Library’s Homeless Engagement Initiative focuses on community advocacy and education that impacts attitudes toward the homelessness. DPL partners with experts and organizations in the field to present community forums and conversation opportunities that address specific topics annually.

Problem Statement

Nearly all urban libraries have a large population of homeless neighbors who use regular library services. Many of these libraries, like Dallas, have initiated programs to directly assist and promote inclusiveness for those experiencing homelessness in our buildings. Belief in myths or stereotypes around homelessness individuals presents a road block to inclusion in the community and solutions to decreasing the prevalence of homelessness. Open dialogue in a safe and trusted environment is our goal.


DPL brings community members together from different circumstances to hear real stories and learn about factors leading to and proven to alleviate homelessness. Our belief is that the transformation we have seen in our staff as they learned other’s stories of survival can be applied to the general public too. The library selects topics (hunger, mental health and youth homelessness) and invites local experts and community members to discuss the topic publicly.


For three years that we have planned and hosted these events, more than 1,300 individuals from service providers to homeless neighbors and housed residents have participated. The discussion portions of the events open up a space for respectful questions and venting of frustrations. We view these ongoing community forums as an opportunity to shift public opinion on homelessness in Dallas and supplement them with quarterly “Hard Conversations” with our partner, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.