People Experiencing Homelessness: How Libraries Can Be Community Collaborators and Catalysts for Change

In 2009, the Forsyth County Public Library received a call-to-action from the Executive Director of the 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. This resulted in the application and implementation of a three-year, LSTA Collaboration and Innovation grant (a US federal funding program for libraries) to improve Library service for people experiencing homelessness and to raise awareness of the issues of homelessness in the community. Through this grant, the Library employed a full-time Peer Support Specialist trained to work with individuals experiencing homelessness by directing them to essential services and providing informational and recreational programs at the Central Library and key branch libraries. By joining the community dialogue and forming a Homelessness Advisory Committee of all key stakeholders, the Library helped bring together a group of service providers who had been working on homelessness for years. The grant project was ultimately sustained when Forsyth County government added the Peer Support Specialist position as a full-time, permanent position at the Central Library. This article will explain how Library staff met this community need and overcame challenges and roadblocks to serving people experiencing homelessness.

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