Melanie O’Brien, RN, a volunteer from the Kadlec Ambulatory Surgery Center, sits with Douglas Barnes and his dog, Macky-Rae, at Homeroom at the Mid-Columbia Libraries Pasco Branch.
Reaching those experiencing homelessness who may shy away from traditional shelters is a delicate endeavor. One of the places where Kadlec Population Health Community Health Worker Maria Perez seeks to connect with this community is at the library – a location that led to the creation of a library-based homeless outreach program called Homeroom Connect in October 2022.
In Pasco, Wash., like many communities, the library is a warm, safe place where those experiencing homelessness gather. When Mona Gonzalez, the Community Library Supervisor for the Mid-Columbia Libraries Pasco Branch, met Kadlec’s Perez doing outreach at the library, it almost seemed like fate.
“Maria and the whole team have been heaven-sent,” Gonzalez said. “We see a lot of people experiencing homelessness, and they need more than we are able to provide. We need to see people as people, not for their situation.”
Today, Homeroom gathers many community partners to offer a welcoming environment, meals, clothes, haircuts and health services monthly at the Pasco library. Just as importantly, it builds trust and relationships with individuals who often feel unseen.
“The things that have come through Homeroom have been amazing,” Gonzalez said.
“We help to strengthen our community connections and support society in breaking the cycle of poverty,” said Perez. “We will not stop caring, we will not stop serving and we will never give up.”