Tag: homeless

The San Francisco Public Library Gives Home to the Homeless

“I’ve got nowhere else but here,” The San Francisco Chronicle quotes Francisco Martinez, 78, as he settles in a window chair in the San Francisco’s Main Library with a Bible.

Martinez is homeless, but he’s not alone at the library. He’s one of the many homeless people who have been met with a warm welcome at public libraries all over America.


The San Francisco Public Library

Image Via Trip Advisor


One of these people is Sally, a former nurse in her 50s. CityLab notes that “[a]fter witnessing a co-worker commit suicide, Sally suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was unable to continue working.” She soon became homeless, and, after witnessing a stabbing on the streets, her PTSD has been worsening ever since. She too went to the library and, from there, has been able to find subsidized housing and resume working.

Libraries are full of stories, but these hopeful tales of human resilience are all thanks to the efforts of the San Francisco Public Library and social worker Leah Esguerra.


Leah Esguerra

Image Via Good News Network


A little history:

According to Reader’s Digest, 2009 was the year that the San Francisco Public Library had an overwhelming number of homeless patrons who utilized their services. To put it in perspective, of the 5,000 people that visit the San Francisco Public Library every day, about 15 percent (that’s 750 patrons) are homeless.

Instead of removing the homeless, the Library decided to hire a social worker to address each individual’s situation. The social worker they hired? Leah Esguerra.



Following her assignment, Esguerra would walk around and get familiar with the homeless patrons, performing full clinical assessments and reporting her findings back to her colleagues at the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team, who would then provide the homeless with what they needed.


Esguerra at the San Francisco Public Library

Image Via California Health Report


“The role is not to ‘end homelessness,’ but the role is to connect people to resources, to homeless services,” Esguerra told Business Insider. “… because of homelessness, there’s a lot of exclusion, but here in the library it’s including them, helping them.” In the seven years that have followed since her hire, Esguerra and her team have helped hundreds find jobs, housing, and proper medical care.

“At one time, the library was my home,” Sally tells CityLab.

Now there are several homeless people who, working under Esguerra’s supervision, keep the facility working. This includes Melvin Morris, who is currently employed for $12 an hour.



“I come from the same place [our homeless patrons] come from,” Morris told the Huffington Post. “When I talk to them, they can’t believe I was actually homeless. I tell them they could do it, too.”

Taking a cue from the San Francisco Public Library, Reader’s Digest notes that “[t]oday, more than 24 public libraries provide support for the homeless.”


A homeless person learning how to use a computer in the library.

Image Via ELFL


Now all public libraries in Pima County, Arizona have nurses available to provide blood pressure checks and immediate care to anyone who needs it.

The Queens Library in New York provides a mobile app to give the homeless emergency food, shelter, and legal services.

Since The San Francisco Public Library started this trend, over 150 homeless patrons have received permanent housing and an additional 800 have enrolled in social and mental health services.



Featured Image Via National Geographic

A Homeless Man’s Coloring Book Pages Show Us Another Side of Creativity

A lesson for children and adults alike.

Healing, like creativity, is a process; there is no on/off switch. It flows like a river, sporadically obstructed by nature and chance. Shit happens—emotionally, spiritually, physically, we get hurt and we turn to various outlets to heal. People exercise, meditate, cleanse, float in some sort of sensory reduction tank (because apparently, that’s a thing), and others create. Regarding books, I do not mean to exclude the reader from this act of creation. There’s a well-known quote by Samuel Johnson circling our illustrious world wide web that says: “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”


Look at that face, that’s a solid blue steel.
Image Via Wikipedia


The reader fills in all the blanks—I know this because of all the literary theory classes those college people made me take…Reading allows the human mind to escape the limitations our so-called realities place upon it. Creating is the same. In the moment, your creation feels like all that matters. But it’s still about more than just you.

A local news station in Cleveland recently did a piece on a homeless man who enjoys drawing as a means to cope with his own limitations. Eugene Sopher draws pages for a coloring book that, due to Sopher’s precarious financial situation, may never be published. To Sopher, that doesn’t matter.



“I do this drawing, and it’s medicine, baby,” said Sopher. “I’m in the zone. Not trying to mix it with drugs, but it’s the best high I’ve ever had.”


His lack of finances and exposure have led to some unconventional PR methods: he relies on strangers to make copies for him so that he may share is art with the world. The wide variety of pages he has created contain lessons for young and old alike. Some of his pictures warn about the dangers of gang violence or meeting strangers online, and others aim to simply put a smile on your face. Sopher, who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder, has not had an easy life. He has felt the weight of the world and the resulting discombobulation. At forty-four years young, he spends a good amount of time drawing uncolored pages so that he can escape any personal grimness and help his readers.




“I can do something because if they’re reading that, they can say, ‘You know what? That happened to me. Oh, you what know, I went through that,” said Sopher. “A lot of the reason I keep my cartoons in black and white is it gives you a chance to put color to them.”


Sopher’s story and art remind us that creativity is not some sort of commodity purchased in the restricted section of society. It’s not exclusively available to those deemed ‘intellectual.’ It’s part of all of us, a silver lining that bridges the gap between reality and perception, body and soul. Regardless of one’s age, race, or gender—whether it be the lawyer who journals in her free time or the homeless man who lives to doodle—we are all connected by imagination and our ability to create.




Images Via News5cleveland.com