Library’s Homeless Coordinator focused on connecting with people
For Suzanne Glover, being the Dallas Public Library’s Homeless Coordinator is sort of like being in a big family in the middle of a big city. “I like that homeless patrons often treat me more like a friend or family member; I’m not just someone telling them what to do or where they’re allowed to be,” said Glover.
Glover began a 25-plus year career in clinical counseling in her senior year in high school in Kansas City. “The school had a new drug abuse program and one of my teachers asked me to help. They knew I had a rocky childhood, but they also knew that I had managed to stay away from drugs and would be able to relate to the kids in the group. That started my career as a counselor,” she said.
After serving in the U.S. Navy, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Park University in Kansas City and a master’s degree in Community Counseling from Argosy College in Dallas. Jobs as a Qualified Mental Health Professional at Metrocare in Dallas and as Intake Triage Counselor at The Bridge followed, before she came to the Central Library in June 2017.
Glover said about 400 persons experiencing homelessness come to the Downtown Library every day. “A big part of my job is listening to people who don’t have a support system and find themselves on the streets for a variety of reasons. And they need someone to steer them back, get them on course and help them figure out what to do.”
Glover is focused on strengthening the relationships the library has with its community partners; relationships that are critical to getting the right assistance to those who need it. A new person experiencing homelessness walks into the Central Library just about every day, she said, and they usually have no idea where to start.
“That’s why our partnerships are so important,” Glover said, “When someone comes to me for help, I can then be a connection between the library and whatever this person needs, whether it’s shelter, counseling for substance abuse or getting reconnected with family and friends.”
Glover is also connecting every day with regular patrons at the Downtown Library. About two months ago, she started a volunteer program, now consisting of four people who are currently experiencing homelessness, who work the Help Desk and assist with some of the Homeless Engagement programs.
“These volunteers are giving back; providing information to people who are new to The Bridge, assisting with our Coffee and Conversation program, and making the rounds with me to greet and talk to people around the library,” she said. The volunteers can use this experience to build a resume that will hopefully lead to finding a job.
And there are other success stories in the short time she’s been at the library.
For one homeless patron, learning time management led to becoming gainfully employed. “He was struggling; not finishing tasks and he really just needed to learn how to manage his time.
“Two months of attending our Managing Mondays program helped him develop those skills and he was able to find a job,” Glover said.
“I was so happy when he called to say he couldn’t attend our Managing Mondays meeting because he had to be at work! And he asked for some help on budgeting his first paycheck. That was a proud moment for me, and really shows the value of the Homeless Engagement Program here at the library.”
So how has the face of homelessness changed over the years?
“To me, I think what has changed is that more people in more communities are really sympathetic and are making more of an effort to understand the issues involved; such as substance and alcohol abuse, mental illness and depression; and they want to help,” she said.
Glover said the library will also continue to provide social connections for all who visit, such as Coffee & Conversation, Game Day and Thursday Classic Movies. “Sometimes a social gathering is what a person needs, just to get them through the day,” she said.
“And I’m always glad to be a part of that day.”