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Volunteers visit libraries to help those who are homeless

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Posted at 10:09 PM, Jul 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-24 00:09:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- When temperatures reach triple digits, many transients seek Salt Lake City libraries to keep cool.

However, when they arrive they can expect to receive a lot more than just air conditioning. They can also receive some hope.

Walking up steps, down corridors, and in-between book shelves, Ethan Sellers and the Volunteers of America Library Engagement Team are constantly scouring Salt Lake City libraries, 40 hours a week, looking for people in need.

“That could be anyone from a low income family who needs basic needs and resources like food and clothing, or it could be a homeless individual looking to get back up on their feet by looking for a job or getting them to a doctor’s appointment,” Sellers said.

When the library engagement team finds someone in need of their help, it’s much more than just handing out information: It’s a detailed, friendly, informative conversation.

“A lot of homeless people, they don’t get to engage with anyone, no one wants to talk to them, and we’ll try to be that resource that will engage with homeless individuals and give them that support,” Sellers said.

Helene Swanson came into the library just looking for a place to sit, when Sellers found her.

“It would be great if I could have access to transportation,” Swanson said. “Access to shower facilities and access to a place to do laundry. I’ve been on the road since March 8, 2014.”

Sellers said he would be able to help her with all of those concerns.

Officials at the library said they have formed a great partnership with the three member team over the last two years, and they appreciate having them around.

“We have had some difficulties in the past really giving them the answers they need to some of their questions,” said Executive Director John Spears. “Having VOA here has really allowed us to up our game in terms of giving them what they need.”

Helene said as long as she is in Salt Lake City, she’ll continue to count on the folks at the library. It’s no longer just a place to stay cool.

“This is a service that would help many big cities in the United States,” Swanson said.