Drilling Down on How the City Responded to Civil Grand Jury Questions About the Homeless in Libraries

City’s responses highlight its wide range of services to assist local homeless

Published : Tuesday, October 22, 2019 | 4:40 AM

While the City’s Public Library system continues to be a respite and oasis for Pasadena’s homeless population, the Pasadena City Council Monday approved a set of responses by the Public Library to the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury’s investigation, “The Impact of the Homeless on Public Libraries Grand Jury Report.”

Pasadena’s Public Health Department and the City of Pasadena Public Library were among the eight organizations County-wide, selected for the County Grand Jury investigations.

The report singled out the City’s “Care Navigator” Program, which serves individuals who are experiencing homelessness, mental illness and substance use issues.

Within the Grand Jury’s 11 findings and nine recommendations, Pasadena was directed to respond to five of them.

Among its 11 findings, the report noted that libraries should be permitted to maintain emergency funds provided by the County to handle minor needs and light maintenance immediately, should be authorized to set up contractual agreements with local vendors to perform minor maintenance on library facilities, should be authorized to offer employment to prospective applicants with an incentive for geographic hardships.

Libraries should also develop arrangements with agencies that can provide additional services to library users, said the report, such as AARP, commercial establishments, and travel groups, and that training should be created for all staff, including part-timers, on how to handle difficult situations and effectively refer them to a person who can solve the problem.

This recommendation is already being implemented, said Michelle Perera, Director of Information Services, in a collaboration of the Public Health and Libraries and Information Services Departments.

The Homeless Care Navigator Project was implemented in 2017 to support the Library staff, patrons and addressing other gaps in the delivery of social services. The project seeks to contribute to the homeless continuum of care by enhancing the points of entry into available social services. This project collaborates with several entities, such as the established lead agencies for the Coordinated Entry System Programs (Union Station, Family Foothill and Hillsides) that serve, adults, families and youth to improve access to housing and shelter.

“The program will continue to outreach to other service providers to enhance services to the general community and to provide social support for vulnerable populations,” said the response.

“The program will continue to outreach to other service providers to enhance services to the general community and to provide social support for vulnerable populations. and training should be created for all staff, including part-timers, on how to handle difficult situations and effectively refer them to a person who can solve the problem.”

The report also recommended that Library management seek appropriate funding to hire a clinical social worker or public health technician who can build stronger relationships with homeless individuals and connect them through cross-functional teamwork with various agencies, to provide information and referrals to homeless and other behaviorally challenged patrons. Library representatives should become more visible to the greater public by attending interactive forums such as block club meetings and community forums to share the philosophy and techniques used by the Library to address local issues.

The Grand Jury report also directed that Library management seek appropriate funding to hire a clinical social worker or public health technician who can build stronger relationships with homeless individuals and connect them through cross-functional teamwork with various agencies such as the Department of Mental Health, and the Department of Public and Social Services, to provide information and referrals to homeless and other behaviorally challenged patrons.

Perera responded that the City agrees with the recommendation, but that there needs to be additional funding in order to provide additional staff.

“This area needs additional resources to provide capacity to address the individuals experiencing homelessness who have severe mental health conditions and substance abuse,” said the response.

The Library’s Care Navigator position is funded at 32 hours per week, said the response. The Care Navigator has also reported the challenges of engaging with those who present complex conditions. Such cases may require expert, clinically-based interventions best provided by a trained social worker or other professional.

“Any additional positions will require outside funding through grants or private entities,” said the City’s response.

The City’s response also agreed that library personnel should be more visible in the community, and said that Library staff share program information at events such as National Night Out, Assembly District community events, City Council district community events, Salvation Army outreach events, community conversations around the City’s Community Health Improvement Plan, Library in the Park programs, African American parent council meetings, and other outreach opportunities.

“Since the Library does have ten locations throughout the City,” the City’s response stated, “many of these outside meetings are held in Library branches.”

The City’s response also noted that while the Pasadena Public Library is “neither part of the referenced Los Angeles Public Library or the County of Los Angeles Public Library systems, the Pasadena Public Library has a staff of security guards who are regular City employees. These guards are scheduled to patrol three of our ten library locations, on a daily basis, and are available to be deployed to the remaining seven at any time.

The farthest distance a guard would need to travel to a location from Central Library is less than five miles, said the response, making the response time relatively short.

Staff is also advised to contact 911 in any threatening situation. The Department does not currently have the capacity or budget to staff all ten locations with guards during all operating hours, said the City’s response.