This Book Week Scotland we are delighted to have Rachel Cowan, founder of Streetreads, as our guest blogger.
What is Streetreads and what do we do? Well, we’re a tiny outfit with what I hope is a big heart. And what we do is give books to homeless readers. Rough sleepers, those in temporary accommodation, in hostels, those sleeping on a mate’s sofa and more. Our long held dream is to put books into the hands of every homeless reader in Scotland.
We’re all volunteers, including me –the bookwumman – and we operate on almost zero funding. All the books on our shelves have been generously donated by private individuals, authors, publishing houses and other bookish organisations.
Our books are given as a gift and are in excellent or even new condition so our readers know they’re getting a present which is given with respect and love.
The impact a book can have on a homeless reader is huge. In lives which are often unsafe, chaotic and bleak, a book can feel like a safe harbour. It is an escape and a solace in a hard world. It can nourish the soul and feed the imagination.
A recent survey showed that members of the public are often reluctant or even afraid to speak to homeless people. But our homeless readers report that folk are much more likely to stop and talk if there’s a book involved. It’s a bridge that begins a conversation and smashes prejudice. We heard of a young man who spoke to one of our homeless readers. Together, they found common ground with their admiration of Ian Rankin’s detective Rebus. That young man went on to donate books to us.
What I know is that as long as there are homeless people out there who want to read, Streetreads will be there to give them wonderful books.
Rachel Cowan, 27th November