The Windsor Public Library is beginning a project to provide more access to services for high-needs populations.
The organization received a grant of $200,000 from the Ontario Libraries Capacity Fund in order to develop a social services community hub for people experiencing homelessness or those living in poverty. It will be partnering with the Essex County Library, the Guelph Public Library, the Access County Community Support Services and the New Canadians' Centre of Excellence to establish the hub.
Library CEO Kitty Pope said administration and board members wanted to examine what information people who are homeless or living in poverty need in terms of services and resources.
“I’m not sure that currently we service the information needs of the poor and the unemployed and if we aren’t, then let’s learn how to do it,” said Pope.
The grant proposal was submitted in September 2015 and was one of 10 libraries and library systems chosen across the entire province for various projects, including the Ottawa Public Library and Toronto Public Library.
The Windsor, Essex and Guelph libraries will start the project by consulting with 200 groups of people and individuals in each region. Each group will include members of agencies which help with housing or social issues, as well as those who receive these services.
Pope said the library, due to its downtown location, already serves as a hub for people who “need community support,” providing them with computers to use, books to read and people to meet, the last of which can be crucial for some in the community.
“They may not want to go to a website, they may not have the skills or the literacy or technology skills to be able to access a website to find out, ‘How do I get shelter?’ ‘How do I find a food bank?’ So often it’s by word of mouth.”
Once the consultation process is completed, the partners will develop a toolkit including implementation plans and how to provide staff training to better help those in need.
WPL Board chair Peter Frise said in a statement the electronic toolkit will help other facilities reach the groups being focused on with the project.
“We are honoured to be pioneering this work and then sharing it with all of Ontario,” said Frise.
Pope said the plan is to finish the research phase by end of 2016 and have the toolkit finished and shared to the province by the end of 2017.
“If you don’t promise two more inches than you think you can reach, how do you ever move ahead?” said Pope when asked if two years was an ambitious plan.
According to Pope, they hope to begin phase one of the project within the next month.