PHILADELPHIA: A group that helps homeless people get back on their feet is posting once-homeless “attendants” in the restrooms of a downtown library in an effort to help manage the masses who flock there looking for shelter or a bathroom.
Project HOME and the Free Library of Philadelphia hope the project, which started this week, will prevent loitering and unsanitary conditions. But they also see the six-month pilot as a unique way to reach out to the homeless.
“They can relate to these folks,” Ed Speedling, a community liaison with the advocacy group, said of the newly trained attendants. “They have a lot of empathy for them.”
As a free facility that is open to the public, the library for years has faced a homeless problem at its central branch, which is near popular tourist attractions on the tree- and museum-lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Some linger in the bathrooms, bathing themselves and occasionally causing disturbances.
The problem is especially acute at the downtown branch, where some groups regularly give away food to large numbers of homeless who gather on the steps. At last count, Project HOME said, more than 400 homeless people were living in downtown Philadelphia.