DENVER (CBS4)– A growing program employing formerly homeless people at the Denver Public Library is helping the homeless to get off the streets and find work. Peer navigators in the library’s community resource office are recovering from their own homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.

library social workers pkg frame 839 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

(credit: CBS)

The program’s four peer navigators work under the direction of four social workers whom the library employs. Demand for the assistance is growing, as hundreds of people in need seek program resources every month.

library social workers pkg frame 922 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

(credit: CBS)

“I just try to do good stuff. Good choices,” said Trevor Miller, a program participant struggling with homelessness.

Miller’s navigator, Cuica Montoya, is working to help him find stable housing and work.

library social workers pkg frame 72 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

(credit: CBS)

“Cuica is a person who took me under her wing to try to help me,” Miller said. “I’ve just been doing good ever since.”

Montoya loves her job advocating for the vulnerable population. But her work is not just a job. For Montoya, the mission is personal.

library social workers pkg frame 1304 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

Cuica Montoya (credit: CBS)

“I’ve definitely sat across from a couple people that I feel like I’m looking into a mirror of my past,” Montoya told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

library social workers pkg frame 892 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

(credit: CBS)

At a point in her past, Montoya said that she had struggled with homelessness, substance abuse and mental health challenges. As a navigator, she calls upon her own life experience to help others.

library social workers pkg frame 211 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

(credit: CBS)

“That’s where the magic happens, is when somebody comes in asking for help and needing resources. I can sit down and say ‘Hey, I get it,’” she said.

library social workers pkg frame 1850 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

(credit: CBS)

Peer navigator duties include assisting library customers during program drop-in hours, approaching visitors to identify those who might need help, and connecting people in need with resources for jobs, food and housing.

library social workers pkg frame 1484 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

(credit: CBS)

Chris Henning, communications manager for the Denver Public Library, said the social worker team also trains other library staff members on how to improve their interactions with homeless visitors.

library social workers pkg frame 2335 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

Chris Henning (credit: CBS)

“They are here to make connections with customers and help them better help themselves to work with the social service system,” Henning said.

For its 2019 budget, the city has approved the hire of two additional peer navigators to expand the program.

library social workers pkg frame 2172 Formerly Homeless Help Current Homeless Through Peer Program At Denver Public Library

(credit: CBS)

Melissa Garcia

Comments

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s