As many librarians and homeless advocates know “libraries are often the safest place for homeless people.”
According to PBS, about 15% of the San Francisco Public Library’s daily patrons are homeless.
“After years of watching this underserved demographic float through to get Internet access, a restroom and often, just refuge from the cold, the library realized it was in an auspicious position to stage effective interventions.”
In 2009, Leah Esguerra was hired by the library as a full time social worker based out of the library. And since her program began, the results have been impressive:
“About 150 homeless people have received permanent housing, and another 800 have enrolled in social and mental health services, according to PBS.”
Esguerra does full clinical assessments on the homeless individuals that she meets at the library and then works with the San Francisco homeless outreach team.
The library has even employed formerly homeless people to work in the library upon completion of a vocational rehabilitation program. Says Melvin Morris, a participant in the program:
“I come from the same place they come from. When I talk to them, they can’t believe I was actually homeless. I tell them they could do it, too.”
Twenty-four libraries across the country have followed San Francisco’s lead and also begun to provide support services to homeless patrons.