A collective of shared resources designed to connect Richmond’s libraries and shelters to empower the homeless population.

The Ask: 

To design a service – a completely new one or to improve an existing service. Our group chose to focus on libraries, specifically on how they can help the homeless population. 

The Problem: 

The Richmond Public Library isn’t properly equipped to serve homeless patrons

The Realization:

Despite being ill-equipped, homeless women like Joy, with no one else to turn to and nowhere else to go, see libraries as safe havens. 

The homeless crisis is real and it’s happening everywhere, everyday.

Today, There are over 550,000 people in the United States experiencing homelessness on any given day, thats 1 in 194 people. 

It’s estimated that women comprise a little under 40% of that population but this is a population that is typically overlooked.

Women and families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, with 85% of homeless families headed by single women. 

A little over 600 people homeless are homeless in Richmond every day

The Situation:

The presence of the homeless population at libraries has forced librarians into becoming makeshift social workers and first responders.

The Opportunity:

A chance to come together as a community for the better of humanity and for the better of our city.

Why Libraries? 

When we think of where the homeless go we think of shelters but in reality they are headed to the library, at least during the day. The phenomenon of homeless people being drawn to public libraries is nothing new. The issue has been discussed in the news and in library circles for years and we see it in movies and TV shows.

They are turning to libraries for:

- Safety

- Shelter 

- Are only places they are allowed to go during the day when the shelters aren’t open


Empower homeless women through equal access to information and resources to achieve a position of stability.




Connecting Patron, Library, and Shelter: 

One -stop shop highlighting key library and shelter resources. Shared internal database and roster between Richmond libraries and shelters

Personal Dashboard:

Library: Validate patron identities in partnership with shelters, host book loan programs and manage requests


Shelter: Share insights, opening times, building updates, programs

Patron: Keep book wish list, favorite shelters, track reading progress

Recommended Reading Lists: 

Curated book recommendations covering topics like eviction, stress support, mental health, wellness, financial health, pursuing higher education, and parenting


General recommendations for kids based on public school reading lists

Find Your Local Shelter:

Provides up-to-date information on all open local shelters in the area, and most importantly provides the user (Librarian or Homeless patron) a “Check-In” countdown for each shelter. 


Also provides the number for the RVA Homeless Crisis Line. 

Resource Fliers:

ATLAS brochures, ID card guides, reading lists

Information Keyring:

ATLAS contact info, social worker organizations, local charities, govt. services

Job Workshops

Resumes, job hunt, soft skills, interview preparation

Patron-Led Talks:

Discussion boards with patrons, open and safe dialogue exchange.

Patron Book Clubs:

Tailored reading for patron interests and pain points. 

Book Lending Program:

Selected donation/lending program to shelters for community readings.

Roll Out

Year 1 - 2 

Year 2 - 3

Year 3 - 5

Introduce Pilot Program in partnership with charities and organizations like the Richmond Public Library, Salvation Army, and Caritas to incorporate feedback and iterations.

Take to the city level to pitch for larger implementation and hopefully have the whole

city of Richmond implementing this. 

Target county libraries around Richmond and then the rest of Virginia. 

New Customer Journey


Barriers to Entry




Funding &



& State Discrepancies

Willingness to Commit

Degree of Motivation

Success Metrics

Job board activity - conversion rate 

Reading list participation

Positive feedback from libraries and shelters

Emotional wellbeing of patrons

Less incidents of conflict among patrons


Marissa Liu: Experience Designer 

Gaby Olivera: Experience Designer

Marnie Abraham: Strategist