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Homeless Outreach Worker at Central Library

Sacramento Public Library

Innovation Leader: Rebecca Higgerson, Central Library Manager, rhiggerson@saclibrary.org

Problem Statement

Sacramento Public Library’s Central Library faces the same issues that most large, urban libraries face with regard to homeless patrons who, besides having no place to live, may also be struggling with mental illness, illiteracy or joblessness. We often hear that some patrons are reluctant to visit or use the Central Library because of this specific population.

Innovation

The library has partnered with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership (DSP), a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the improvement of Sacramento’s central business district, and beginning in January 2011, contracted for the services of one of their Homeless Outreach Workers (Navigator). The Navigator works in the library Tuesday through Friday interacting with patrons whom she believes may have issues related to homelessness or mental illness. According to the Navigator, “I start by building a relationship with the homeless patrons who frequent the library, and hopefully gain their trust as I assist them with housing and other needs and issues they may have. Many times there are underlying issues that have contributed to their homelessness such as mental illness, job loss, and dependency issues. My goal, as well as the goal of the DSP Navigator Program, is to “navigate” through the social service programs to find the help and assistance that our clients need.”

Progress

As a result of the Navigator’s work at the Central Library, in just two months she has developed an active client list of 22; has successfully housed two patrons; referred one to Youth Services, one to Housing Specialist and two for substance abuse; and has one return-to-family pending. Most of her client list are patrons in the process of obtaining income (SSI, General Assistance or employment), searching for temporary and/or permanent housing, or addressing other issues that have contributed to their homelessness. This program has helped the library reduce incidents requiring the intervention of law enforcement, provided the staff with an in-house expert who provides an empathetic ear and expertise that staff lack, and provides reference, information and referral that makes a difference to our most vulnerable population.