As pilot, Kindness Corner gearing for takeoff at Georgetown Library

GEORGETOWN – Late January is Georgetown Public Library’s targeted soft launching for a voluntary peer-based pilot program designed to help those facing homelessness and crisis.

Coined Kindness Corner, the pilot program will enlist trained peer volunteers.

“It is going to be targeted mainly toward homeless people and people in crisis, but it is going to be open to everybody,” said Sherri Scott, Georgetown Public Library’s Director of Youth Services. “It is to benefit mainly those in crisis situations; people that might be temporarily homeless.”

If successful, the pilot could branch out to other libraries across Delaware.

“We’re doing a three-month trial pilot,” said Ms. Scott.

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Jim Martin, director of the ACE Peer Center, will facilitate peer training.

Peer training and certification will fall under the umbrella of the ACE Peer Center and its director, Jim Martin, a recovering addict now seven years sober.

“I have been officially trained and certified in peer support by the state of Delaware. I have had 59 hours of training, exam, and over four years of on the job training at the ACE Center,” said Mr. Martin. “Our hope for all “helpers” at the Kindness Corner is they will be trained in mental health first aid and Peer 101, but at first they will job-shadow me while I provide support and advocacy to my peers in recovery.”

“As peer specialists we have ‘lived experience’ of reaching out for help with our issues and then being consumers of behavioral healthcare  … we can offer empathy and mutuality of experience while also helping someone who is vulnerable and not feeling well to navigate toward wellness tools that may help,” said Mr. Martin.

The pilot took flight from a two-week survey conducted by Mr. Martin and an associate of library patrons this past fall.

“A lot of people said that they wished there was some place they go in the library that they felt comfortable and they could talk amongst themselves or talk with other people – a non-judgmental area where they could feel comfortable and free to talk and encourage each other, not like a counseling session or anything.” Ms. Scott said.

Mr. Martin said the main elements of peer support are:

  • Make connection to reduce loneliness, isolation;
  • Use personal lived experiences to role model and teach recovery skills;
  • See strengths in another peer and point toward potential that others may fail to see;
  • Listen with a different ear;
  • Communicate that recovery is possible;
  • Go the extra mile in advocating for a peer in need;
  • Help peers to navigate and negotiate services and resources;
  • Create lasting and supportive relationships with other peers.

Plans are for a soft launching in late January with a full launching beginning the first of February.

With trained peer volunteers on hand, the Kindness Corner would be open Monday through Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The library’s Job Center room is among the possible locations.

“We have a couple options we are still kind of tossing around,” Ms. Scott said. “Depending on activity it may vary from different rooms. There may or may not be a specific, designated room.”

People who are homeless, in transition or facing crisis find refuge in libraries, which provide shelter and internet access.

Modern technology – an app system for homelessness – could factor into the initiative through ILEAD, a leadership program in libraries statewide.

“That is what my team is working on through I LEAD. We have designed it and. It’s just a prototype right now because we are trying to get the finances at this point to develop it into something that can really go live and be useful,” Ms. Scott said. “We have it all developed and everything but it’s just getting the money and the finances to be able to develop it through the app system and to put it into a live usage. We’re looking into grants to get it started.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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