In early 2022, Catholic Charities of Broome County, a partner with the SCBHN, created a collaboration with the Broome County Public Library to provide resources for individuals in the downtown community who come into the library seeking help. Libraries have always been a place that serves the neediest members of the community because they’re open to everyone. The main goal of the program is to provide a safe space for individuals to come in and access services.
The Broome County Public Library is the first library in New York State to offer support from Peer Specialists – people with lived mental health experience who want to be out in the community and helping others. These trained and certified Peer Specialists are key to making individuals feel comfortable, without fear of judgment.
There’s no referral needed, and there’s no pressure to participate. People can come in and just be. Individuals might sit for two weeks before asking for help. But when they want it, it’s there for them.
The program has been very well received, and the room is always full. Each month we’re seeing about 350 to 360 people through the door, with anywhere from 50 to 60 areas of support given to these individuals – including referrals, hygiene supplies, food, advocacy with landlords, etc.
The Library Peer Project is a true example of collaboration in our community. Homelessness and mental health are challenging, complex issues, but this program shows how everybody can do something. The partnership through our agency, Catholic Charities of Broome County, lets each of us do the part we’re good at, giving us more flexibility to meet the needs of patrons. The Library Peer Project is made possible through funding provided by Friends of the Broome County Public Library and a grant from the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation.