This Library Provides Social Services to Homeless Patrons

If you think libraries are only good for books, try searching a little deeper on your next visit. It's not unusual for libraries to lend out unconventional items, like seeds or telescopes. And at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), staff members go above and beyond by offering social services to some community members who need it most: those without a home.

As recently reported by My Modern Met, the SFPL has been providing life-changing services to homeless people for the past seven years. In 2009, the library teamed up with the San Francisco Department of Public Health in an effort to better handle their homeless patrons, who make up 15 percent of their daily visitors. Since then, around 800 homeless people have taken advantage of the library's social services and close to 150 have moved into stable living situations.

This is largely thanks to Leah Esguerra, the first full-time psychiatric social worker hired by the library to tackle the issue. She provides homeless patrons with information about where to go for food, shelter, and legal assistance, and sometimes even goes so far as to provide medical assessments. And while many libraries offer career services, the SFPL takes that idea one step further. After completing a 12-week vocational rehabilitation program, the library invites former homeless patrons to work as "health and safety associates" and assist Esguerra in her mission.

The San Francisco Public Library is one of at least 24 libraries in the U.S. with programs tailored for their homeless visitors. According to PBS, staff members at the Denver Public Library make biannual visits to a local women's shelter to sign residents up for library cards and teach them how to search for jobs online. And at the public library in Dallas, the staff hosts "Coffee and Conversation" meetups twice a month where homeless patrons can discuss issues facing the community.

[h/t My Modern Met]

Google Adds 'Wheelchair Accessible' Option to Its Transit Maps

Google Maps is more than just a tool for getting from Point A to Point B. The app can highlight the traffic congestion on your route, show you restaurants and attractions nearby, and even estimate how crowded your destination is in real time. But until recently, people who use wheelchairs to get around had to look elsewhere to find routes that fit their needs. Now, Google is changing that: As Mashable reports, the company's Maps app now offers a wheelchair accessible option to users.

Anyone with the latest version of Google Maps can access the new feature. After opening the app, just enter your starting point and destination and select the public transit choices for your trip. Maps will automatically show you the quickest routes, but the stations it suggests aren't necessarily wheelchair accessible.

To narrow down your choices, hit "Options" in the blue bar above the recommended routes then scroll down to the bottom of the page to find "Wheelchair accessible." When that filter is checked, your list of routes will update to only show you bus stops and subways that are also accessible by ramp or elevator where there are stairs.

While it's a step in the right direction, the new accessibility feature isn't a perfect navigation tool for people using wheelchairs. Google Maps may be able to tell you if a station has an elevator, but it won't tell you if that elevator is out of service, an issue that's unfortunately common in major cities.

The wheelchair-accessible option launched in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney on March 15, and Google plans to expand it to more transit systems down the road.

[h/t Mashable]

Gumdrop LTD.
British Designer Recycles Used Chewing Gum Into Everyday Items—Including the Soles of Shoes
Gumdrop LTD.
Gumdrop LTD.

Even if you never chew gum, you may have stepped on a gob of the stuff discarded on a sidewalk or felt it stuck beneath a park bench. Chewing gum is the second most common source of litter, behind cigarettes, and because it isn't biodegradable, cities are struggling to get rid of it. Now, the BBC reports that British designer Anna Bullus has found an ingenious alternative to tossing old gum on the ground: She's repurposing it into new products normally made out of rubber or plastic.

Bullus started her gum recycling project by installing bright pink bins called Gumdrops around sites in the UK. The containers, which are made from recycled gum themselves, come with signs telling passersby that any old gum dropped into the bin will be recycled. In some places, the receptacles led to an 89 percent decrease in gum litter.

After analyzing the chemistry of chewing gum, Bullus found that it contains polyisobutylene, a type of polymer similar to plastic that's often used as a synthetic rubber. This means it can be used to make everyday products like doorstops, coffee cups, and plasticware. It can even been turned into playful pink soles for shoes, which look much more attractive than the gum that normally ends up on the bottom of your shoe.

The collected gum is processed with other plastic polymers at a recycling plant in Worcester, and from there it's sent to a plastic molding specialist in Leicester, where Bullus executes her designs. Combs, lunchboxes, pencils, Frisbees and many other items made from gum are available to order from the Gumdrop website. Anna Bullus is also accepting suggestions of other products to make from the chewed-up gum she collects.

Pink coffee cups.

Pink guitar pick.

Dog catching frisbee.

Pink rubber boot.

[h/t BBC]

All images courtesy of Gumdrop Ltd.


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