Encampment outreach
Encampment outreach

Massachusetts librarians are fortunate to have a mental health organization to connect with for support for patrons experiencing homelessness and mental illness. PATH (Projects for Assistance with Transition from Homelessness), a collaboration between the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and Eliot Services, is a very helpful program that your library can reach out to for training as well as to build a relationship with your local Homeless Engagement Coordinator.  In this interview, you will hear from from Keith Wales, LICSW, Director of Homeless and Outreach Services, Eliot Community Human Services.

Please tell us about the Eliot Services homeless services and how Massachusetts librarians can reach out to get support for patrons experiencing homelessness.

Keith Wales: PATH (Projects for Assistance with Transition from Homelessness) is a statewide contract with the Department of Mental Health and SAMHSA for the provision of outreach/engagement and support planning and implementation for people experiencing homelessness in sheltered and unsheltered settings.  Between July 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019, the program has enrolled 1,537 homeless individuals – housing 362 of them through partnerships with various continuums of care.  Eliot Homeless Services Division has recently completed a strategic plan with MIT/Leading with Impact to increase its ability to address underlying causes of chronic homelessness.

Librarians can contact PATH Regional Managers for referrals and/or consultation & support:

Northeast Region: Melissa Glassman, LMHC
Phone: (978) 738-4543

Southeast Region: Janelle Miller, LICSW
Phone: (617) 429-9386

Central Region: Brian Bickford, LMHC
Phone: (617) 512-9035

Western Region: Jay Levy, LICSW
Phone: (413) 539-4090

Metro Boston: Mary Thomas, LICSW
Phone: (781) 307-3937

I am always available as well!

Keith Wales, LICSW
Phone: (781) 734-2071

What mental health and homeless resources do you think all Massachusetts librarians should know?

Keith: I would suggest getting to know your local “COC” (Continuum of Care) – these 15 groups across the state are comprised of local stakeholders who support people experiencing chronic homelessness at macro and micro levels.  Your local PATH or DMH contact can be helpful with identifying the COC for your area.

Please share some tips for occupational safety and self-care for librarians that you recommend for your own staff.

I highly recommend “Mental Health First Aid” trainings – the fees are very low (just enough to cover the cost of the course). As for self-care: I strongly encourage a healthy compartmentalization between our human and professional selves – in other words, permission to not take grave social injustices we witness home with us.

Keith Wales
Keith Wales, Director of Homeless and Outreach Services

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

We look forward to building on our existing collaborations. We are also very grateful for the immense role libraries continuously play with respect to supporting this highly vulnerable population.

Interview with Keith Wales, LICSW, Director of Homeless and Outreach Services, Eliot Community Human Services

Interviewed by Michelle Eberle, Consultant