Community and Family Engagement – a Teen-led Discussion of Homelessness

Guest blogger Dorcas Wong of the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) provides this entry on her experience with a teen-led discussion of homelessness

In the Summer of 2019, with the help of teen librarian, Marla Bergman, a group of high school teens in the YELL program (Youth Engaged in Library Leadership) at the Excelsior Branch of the San Francisco Public Library developed and led a project on homelessness. They titled it Life in SF: Luck, Loss & Gain.

Current reports state that the Bay Area has the 3rd largest homeless population in the nation (bayareaeconomy.org). In response to this crisis, the YELL team chose to explore homelessness in San Francisco, along with socioeconomic inequality. The intention was to provide a platform to:

  • Educate the community on these issues
  • Foster more empathy for the people facing these challenges
  • And, hopefully, inspire advocacy for positive change

There were two parts to this event.

First, participants played a board game. This game was effectively a modified Monopoly, inspired by a West Point teacher who altered the board game so his students would have a visceral experience of some of the obstacles of living in poverty (PaulsJusticePage.com). The game the teens designed was further altered to reflect San Francisco (e.g. properties, BART lines, and unique event cards).

For the second half, patrons were treated to an informative and animated panel discussion. This panel included:

  • Ricky, a person experiencing homelessness (and patron grateful for library resources)
  • Jessica Soto, a Health and Safety Associate part of the SFPL and SF Homeless Outreach Team
  • Meghan Freebeck, CEO, Project Homeless Connect, Founder of Simply the Basics
  • Manuel Rodriguez, Director, Community Action Partnerships, Urban Services YMCA
  • Gayle Roberts, CDO, Larkin Street Youth Services

All questions were written and delivered by YELL members, who also created booklists, resource sheets, and publicity materials.

24 teens and adults attended this event, which was highly regarded by staff, the local community, and the library commission. There was one person who even wanted to purchase a game board to take back and share.


Thanks, Dorcas, for reporting on this event at San Francisco Public Library!

And as always, thanks for the work that you all do for and with teens.

Todd Krueger, YALSA President 2019-2020 | Twitter: @toddbcpl

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