Library case worker to help homeless
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Monday, January 14, 2013
1/14/13 at 8:51 AM
A case worker from Family & Children's Services will now be on hand at Tulsa City-County Library's Central branch in an effort to assist the homeless and indigent who visit the downtown location.
Yvonne Woodfin, a case manager with Family & Children's Services' homeless outreach team, works four hours a day, five days a week out of the Central Library helping anyone who comes in with questions about community resources.
"It ranges from housing to food," Woodfin said. "We've had several people just come off the bus. They come with all their luggage. I've told them they can go to this shelter or this place."
The partnership started last summer after a pilot program in July and August. In those two months, the number of reported incidents between staff and patrons dropped by about 50 percent from the same time period a year before, said Cindy Hulsey, readers' library manager at Central.
"Librarians who work here are often frustrated because the people who would come in would need more help or services than we could provide," Hulsey said. "Her (Woodfin) presence helped de-escalate some situations."
Woodfin said the library staff members are generous and gracious when dealing with homeless and patrons in need, but they don't have time to just talk with someone for 20 minutes, which is sometimes all they want.
The pilot program was so successful that the library was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation to continue the partnership.
Woodfin started working out of Central at the beginning of January and has already begun meeting with clients and assisting librarians.
"They'll (library staff) ask me what to do or if I could talk with someone. That's key, establishing that relationship, that rapport," she said.
Many know the library has resources, Woodfin said, they just may not know what is available and how to utilize it, including the library's computer labs and Job Lab programs.
"Sometimes we don't realize how anxious they are to learn things, they just don't know how to go about it."
In addition to established clients and referrals from library staff, Woodfin also walks around the library and stops to talk with people who may need help, Hulsey said.
"My staff were absolutely thrilled when they heard Yvonne was coming back," she said.
Woodfin will also be available to go to branch libraries if a need arises and have training sessions for staff on how to better communicate with people who may have an untreated mental illness.
"We try to treat everyone who walks in the same," Hulsey said. "The library is working with social service agencies. We're all working toward the same end."
Original Print Headline: Case worker on hand at library to aid homeless
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465