I have been helping produce Infopeople webinars for several years, and have listened to some great presentations. But something amazing happened recently. This May, San Francisco Public Library’s Karen Strauss and Leah Esguerra presented two webinars on Handling Challenging Situations: What Do I do Now? (Here is Part 1 and here is Part 2 – and both archives are worth viewing in their entirety.) These were excellent presentations about SFPL’s placement of a social worker at the Main Library to link users to housing and social services. In Part 2 they focused on the development of a program they call Health and Safety Associates (HaSA), providing opportunities to develop marketable skills for people who had been homeless. That program in itself is really cool, but what really set this webinar apart was the guest speaker, Kathleen Lee.
Kathleen has been a Health and Safety Associate at the San Francisco Public Library since October, 2010. Before that she and her partner owned a painting and restoration business in Sacramento. During the recession in 2009, they lost their business and became, for the first time, homeless. Thanks to services provided by the City and County of San Francisco and the Homeless Outreach Team, Kathleen and her partner have since been able to recover from homelessness. Through her training as a HaSA, Kathleen was hired as a counselor at a local shelter and is now working full-time employment with the Homeless Outreach Team — the same program that helped her and her partner find permanent housing. She continues to work as a part-time HASA at the Library.
Her story is wonderfully inspiring! Kudos to SFPL for giving her a chance, and kudos to Kathleen for her journey from homelessness to a new life – and for being willing to share her story with us. We found it so remarkable that we created a podcast of her talk. It’s a TED Talk-worthy listen!