Dead malls, obsolete warehouses and passed-over big box retail outlets aren’t hard to find in North America. What to do with all that space, all that land? McAllen, Texas took the depressing carcass of a dead Wal-Mart and refitted it as a public library. What an improvement: the largest library in the country, and an interior design award winner.
Home to the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County is experiencing suburban poverty. We came across some material the other day indicating that the authorities there have begun to respond. Part of the battle seems to be getting people to accept there is such a problem.
Food, transportation and the public libraries have been identified as areas in need of support. We’ve already seen transportation as an aggravator of suburban poverty. Where social services are thinner on the ground and such things as drop in centres or food banks spread further afield in lower density suburbs than in built-up urban areas people can fall into social difficulty faster and can find their responses made less effective. Libraries have been suggested as locations for social services outreach, communiation, intake and assssment tasks in suburban areas. Bolstering transportation assistance, help with car repairs and the donation of cars to social agencies, is also seen as a practical response in a place where automobility is almost mandated by physical environment.
Assessing community need in suburban Allegheny County
14 page .pdf file via forbesfunds.org
Suburban needs task force
Allegheny County presentation – 20 page .pdf file
South Hills Interfaith Ministry
Charitable agency in Allegheny County which began life in a mall – in 1968!
image: Pittsburgh in 1920 via Wikimedia Commons