The Librarian Social Worker
Public libraries have long been a daytime sanctuary for the homeless. Now, they're starting to see even more of the down-and-out among the bookshelves. As...
Public libraries have long been a daytime sanctuary for the homeless. Now, they're starting to see even more of the down-and-out among the bookshelves. As the economy languishes and cities shut down social programs, public libraries are increasingly functioning as drop-in centers for the homeless. The San Francisco Public Library, where hundreds of homeless people can be found every day, has taken a one-of-a-kind step to address the needs of its patrons in crisis. In partnership with the city's Department of Public Health, the library has hired a social worker. On hand five days a week, the social worker handles referrals to social services for the newly and chronically homeless, mentally ill and those struggling with substance abuse. Since the position's creation over a year ago, more than 150 people have been directed to social services. In addition to handling complaints from staff and patrons about people's behavior, the social worker also trains library staff on what to do if they witness unpleasant behavior, and trains formerly homeless people to work at the library and guide others to services. An ongoing survey administered by the library has found that staff and patrons cite fewer incidents of negative behavior. (Photo: Mike Fernwood)
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