This Library Provides Social Services to Homeless Patrons

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0  / Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 

If you think libraries are only good for books, try searching a little deeper on your next visit. It's not unusual for libraries to lend out unconventional items, like seeds or telescopes. And at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), staff members go above and beyond by offering social services to some community members who need it most: those without a home.

As recently reported by My Modern Met, the SFPL has been providing life-changing services to homeless people for the past seven years. In 2009, the library teamed up with the San Francisco Department of Public Health in an effort to better handle their homeless patrons, who make up 15 percent of their daily visitors. Since then, around 800 homeless people have taken advantage of the library's social services and close to 150 have moved into stable living situations.

This is largely thanks to Leah Esguerra, the first full-time psychiatric social worker hired by the library to tackle the issue. She provides homeless patrons with information about where to go for food, shelter, and legal assistance, and sometimes even goes so far as to provide medical assessments. And while many libraries offer career services, the SFPL takes that idea one step further. After completing a 12-week vocational rehabilitation program, the library invites former homeless patrons to work as "health and safety associates" and assist Esguerra in her mission.

The San Francisco Public Library is one of at least 24 libraries in the U.S. with programs tailored for their homeless visitors. According to PBS, staff members at the Denver Public Library make biannual visits to a local women's shelter to sign residents up for library cards and teach them how to search for jobs online. And at the public library in Dallas, the staff hosts "Coffee and Conversation" meetups twice a month where homeless patrons can discuss issues facing the community.

[h/t My Modern Met]