In the year since Donna Bruce started working at the Baltimore public library’s Penn North branch, she has connected more than 400 visitors to housing programs, food assistance and substance abuse recovery options — and saved a man from dying of a drug overdose by administering the emergency treatment Narcan.
Poverty is pervasive in the neighborhoods around the Penn North library, and many people come in simply looking for heat or shelter. Bruce is leading a team of “peer navigators” in the library system trained to provide trauma-informed engagement and support to the public.
…Karen Webber has already seen first-hand as a public school teacher and then principal how similar change helped some Baltimore schools. As the director of education and youth development for the Open Society Institute, she was a key ally to Cohen as he envisioned what the Healing City Act could and should be.
“Children and adults are learning different ways of handling disputes and disagreements and also of creating community,” Webber says. “If that happens in the school, and it also happens when you go to the rec center, and it also happens when you go to the library … I’ve always conceptualized this as something that we can adopt as an entire city.”