November 7, 2018 | Posted by Justin Weidl

Homeless people in the library? Chicago, suburban libraries turn to social workers for help. Justine Janis is a social worker who has service hours at the Chicago Public Library's Bezazian branch, in Uptown. Janis, 29, said she has helped dozens of people since starting at the Chicago Public Library in September.

By Lisa Schencker, Contact Reporter – Chicago Tribune

In the past, when homeless people left their personal belongings in the aisles of the Addison Public Library, security guards might have asked them to leave.

But that was before the library hired a social worker — someone who viewed the problem from another angle.

“We started looking at patrons in a different way, that maybe some of the behavioral issues we were having at the library were stemming from other needs we could address,” said Mary Medjo Me Zengue, Addison Library director.

Public libraries have long been a refuge, not just for readers, but also for people with nowhere else to go during the day — people who sometimes sleep in chairs, use the bathroom sinks to wash themselves or inject themselves with drugs in bathroom stalls. Sometimes they have been kicked out. At best they’ve been left alone.

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