The City of Melbourne will hire a social worker to be employed across its six public libraries, a move set to provide assistance to homeless individuals and other vulnerable citizens.
"Melbourne is a caring city that is focused on our people, and that's why we are investing in providing a full-time social worker in our libraries,” Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said in a media release. “The library social worker will work proactively with library visitors as well as providing additional training and support to staff to help to respond appropriately to people who may require extra assistance.”
The Australian-first program will ensure Melbournians with a variety of needs have the same access to community resources as everybody else, according to Chair of the People City portfolio Beverley Pinder.
"Whether sleeping rough, in a rooming house, couch surfing or in unstable accommodation — when you don't have your own private space, you turn to places that you know are safe and comfortable," Pinder stated. "Libraries are among the last few public indoor spaces where people who are homeless or vulnerable can seek shelter, access technology, and use the resources that many of us take for granted."
City Library is hiring a social worker in an Australian-first program to provide support services to at-risk people https://t.co/N3emqIwh5b— The Age (@theage) August 28, 2019
Craig Farrell lives with homelessness.
Every evening, Farrell sleeps in the heart of Melbourne’s central business district — usually on popular food destination Flinders Lane. During the day, Melbourne City Library is a place where he can escape and read “lots of Greek mythology and history,” the Age reports.
"They don’t judge me because I am homeless,” Farrell said. “This is a place you are not going to get turned away.”
More often than not, Farrell simply uses the library as a safe place to recharge.
"It’s so quiet and warm. It is one place where you won’t get harassed. They have security, but they won’t kick you out. One of the rules is that you can fall asleep, but you can’t lie down and spread out, snoring your head off,” he told the Age.
Around 400 Melbournians sleep on the streets of five inner-city councils each night, a 2018 study revealed.
Around 42% of those recorded were on the waiting list for public housing, including Farrell. Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, spent $530 million AUD on low-cost social housing in 2018 — half that of the nation’s most populous state, New South Wales.
The main causes of homeless for Australians are poverty, lack of safe and affordable housing, violence, and unemployment.
The Library Social Worker initiative follows similar programs in the United States that have been running for many years.
The program will run alongside the City of Melbourne’s additional activities aimed at reducing homelessness. These include the Street Doctor Program — which sees doctors offer free medical care out of a fitted-out van — and a weekly program which coordinates and streamlines action by 14 local homeless support services.