Sanctuary for those facing homelessness may come from your community library
Several public libraries across the country are hiring full-time caseworkers to assist members of their community with the issues they face. These social workers are there to get people connected with services for issues such as homelessness, mental illness, childcare, medical aid, substance abuse, financial assistance, employment, etc. The list goes on and on!
Library staff are not equipped or trained to handle these situations
The solution has come in the form of partnerships with local multi-service case management providers. San Francisco was the first to do this by opening an office in its Main Library for the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Since then, nearly 50 libraries have picked up on this trend and have incorporated in-house social workers.
While not the case for all, libraries have historically been a consistent and safe environment for our youth. They are primarily educational institutions and are perfectly outfitted to teach basic skills for self-sufficiency. This makes them an obvious choice as transitional housing and a good place to seek assistance.
Where do we go from here?
It’s important to make every member of our community feel welcome and accepted. Transforming our public libraries will undoubtedly be met with pushback. Some may complain about lingering odors, others might insist that the use of drugs will rise. At the end of the day, the main question we need to ask ourselves is this – Are you willing to afford the same privileges you have, to those who are homeless?