When it was founded in 2014, LROC offices were located at the Rundel building of the downtown public library. Due to the recent construction and renovation of the libraries, the office is currently located on the 3rd floor of the Bausch and Lomb building, where the all-volunteer staff are available to help library patrons during set hours. All staff members have a background in social work or legal services.
While the work of the staff primarily involves finding housing for the homeless, LROC is not just limited to the homeless population. Its mission statement is to provide barrier-free services to homeless library patrons while building relationships based on dignity and respect; however, it has expanded to assisting anyone who may need help, including in areas of housing, food, clothing, shelter, income, case management, medical care, legal assistance, and employment. The library serves as a “de facto” shelter for many people who do not have permanent housing during the daytime hours, making it an ideal service platform for LROC to engage and serve patrons. Ultimately, the LROC volunteers and staff strive to help people navigate the complex systems of gaining resources through paperwork assistance, advocacy, education, and counseling.
The Library Resource Outreach Center (LROC) was founded in the Fall of 2014 through the collaboration of different individuals, organizations, and ideas. David Creek, the now retired Assistant Director of the library, had spent several years attending local homeless meetings to start a collaborative initiative in serving the homeless who utilized the library as a temporary day shelter. He connected with Dr. Bell and Dr. Guttenmacher from the New York State Office of Mental Health (NYS OMH) and with Nick Coulter from the County Office of Mental Health. Coulter, all of whom were interested in interacting with the homeless patrons of the library. Lastly, Andy Carey, a social worker and co-founder of MC Collaborative, joined the team to help supervise and currently runs the day operations of the center. LROC continues to maintain relationships with these different members who have helped to contribute to its growth.
LROC maintains close partnerships with a variety of local agencies, such as shelters, the Department of Human Services, religious communities and others.
Homelessness in Rochester
Rochester is a vibrant community with a rich history of innovation and culture, but it also has a hidden problem of homelessness. In its efforts, LROC works with the homeless or nearly homeless in order to alleviate the burden of being homeless, eliminate barriers to services, and meet patrons’ needs in real time. Despite the gradual decrease in the number of homeless persons in Rochester , a recent point-in-time count held in January 2017 found that there were 164 homeless people on the streets and not in a shelter during one particular day and night. It should also be noted that an exact count of homeless persons is difficult due to transience and to limited resources for record-keeping. Nonetheless, such an annual count is important because it serves as a sort of census of the homeless that is necessary to gain funds for homeless programs and establish a better response system.
The extent of homelessness is an indicator of other underlying issues within a community. In particular, homelessness is interrelated with poverty, education, violence, employment, mental health, substance abuse, and health care. A 2015 analysis report by ACT Rochester stated that Rochester’s poverty rate increased from 31% to nearly 33% since 2013, and it has the highest rate of extreme poverty of any comparably sized city in the United States. By caring for the most vulnerable community members, LROC is not only meeting the homeless’ immediate needs but creating a strong support system for them to be empowered and to transform their own lives. The program also takes a step forward in encouraging other community members and agencies to establish relationships with the target population. Altogether, LROC and Rochester’s community agencies are taking a stand in solidarity towards stopping the cycle of homelessness in Rochester, which can in turn lead to systemic changes at the policy level.