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Books for the Homeless

Books can springboard homeless people to success. By bringing education to them, we send a message that literacy need not exclude anyone.

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I was deeply inspired by the story of Philani Dladla, known as the Pavement Bookwork, who overcame homelessness by selling books in the streets after he had read each. Philani adjusts the price of the book depending on the potential buyer's capacity to pay. He offers free book reviews too. It didn't take long before his small "pavement bookstore" took off. 

Based on the stories I've read and interviews I've seen of him, his desire to change and the things that inspire him while reading self-help books encouraged him to stop taking drugs. The money he earned from selling books were diverted from buying drugs to buying foods for people like him - the needy. 

Too often, we would hear and see people criticising initiatives like this. They think that homeless people need to satisfy their physiological needs first before anything else. I do agree with that and this challenge does not ask us to stop extending long-term help; however, by focusing solely on meeting their day-to-day physiological needs, we risk losing the opportunity to help them turn their lives for the better. As cliche as it sounds, 'give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. " I believe that the power of reading does not only bring them hope or inspire them, it also pushes them to move to change their lives for good. By encouraging them to read and making books accessible (spots where free boos are available, vending machines that dispense books, etc.) we could all help them transform their lives. It can open them to entertain different ideas and opportunities. It can teach them empathy and adopt new ways of thinking. Reading is empowering and homeless people should not be excluded. 


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