Fremantle Library and St Pat’s team up to combat homelessness
The City of Fremantle and St Patrick’s Community Support Centre are working together to support vulnerable people facing homelessness in a Western Australian-first program.
The Library Connect program, which kicked off last week, uses Fremantle Library as an intervention setting for identifying and supporting people experiencing homelessness, hardship and other disadvantages.
At the core of the program is a St Pat’s community support worker stationed at the library who will engage and connect with people right there and then, providing advice, referrals and support on the ground where it is needed.
“We are pleased to be launching the inaugural Library Connect program in partnership with the City of Fremantle, who share our commitment to social justice, social inclusion and community wellbeing,” St Pat’s CEO Michael Piu said.
“With research indicating that people experiencing disadvantage can be reluctant to use traditional welfare avenues because of the stigma associated with them, libraries provide a ‘soft landing’ and a neutral space to access the support they need.
“We are hopeful this project will help a great number of individuals and families in the Fremantle area to get back on their feet.”
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in increased numbers of people finding themselves unemployed, at risk of homelessness or facing extreme hardships, with many having to navigate support services for the first time in their lives.
“Local libraries are often considered a safe and welcoming refuge, sometimes even the first port of call when asking for help, to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,” Mayor Pettitt said.
“This means our library workers are frequently called upon to provide assistance to vulnerable members of the community, but don’t usually have the professional training, knowledge or social work skillset in dealing with these complex issues.
“Partnering with St Pat’s allows us to bring this incredibly-important community support service into the library. It’s also a great opportunity for the community support worker to guide and upskill our library staff, helping to build their knowledge and capacity around working with vulnerable people.”
St Pat’s community support worker, Sonia Gonzalez, will be based at Fremantle Library between 1–6pm Tuesdays, 8.30am–5pm Wednesdays, 1–6pm Thursdays and 9am–1pm Saturdays.
For more information about St Patrick’s Community Support Centre, visit stpats.com.au.
For more information about Fremantle Library, visit fremantle.wa.gov.au/library.
Image: St Patrick’s Community Support Centre CEO Michael Piu, Community Support Worker Sonia Gonzalez and Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt introducing the Library Connect program.