According to this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the main branch of Philadelphia's Free Library has teamed up with the local homeless advocacy organization , Project HOME in our fair city to help bring services and employment to the homeless and formerly homeless patrons of the library. They are doing this in a pretty ingenious way. Formerly homeless men and women staff the restrooms, where currently homeless men and women frequently come to bathe and clean up and not only direct these people to services and shelters but also maintain a cleaner, safer public restroom for use by all.
By partnering with a local nonprofit more accustomed to working with the specific demographic, the library was better able to tailor the program to meet the needs of both employees and the greater homeless population of Philadelphia. Additionally, the positions of restroom attendants is a clever way to increase access for the homeless to vital information and the system of support which is available to them. Sister Mary Scullion, Executive Director of Project H.O.M.E. declares, "This is a great partnership, a creative solution to a difficult problem. Right now there just aren't enough places for homeless people to go to get their basic needs met. The Library was very forward thinking, strategic and compassionate in helping us find a way to address a need and use it as an opportunity to create employment."
And perhaps most importantly, these attendants serve as fine examples of people who are able to escape the cycle of homelessness and re-enter society as contributing members, visible to both homeless people who seek their assistance and to us all. It is the hope of both Project HOME and the Library that this program can be the first stage in the road to full-time employment. And according to the article, it seems more likely than not.