Dubbed Open Window Hub, the $122,524 project will allow the city to hire a full-time homelessness prevention worker to provide outreach services through the library system.
|The Mississauga Central Library will serve as home base for Open Window Hub, |
a pilot project to combat homelessness in the city.
By Scott Wheeler
July 26, 2017
The City of Mississauga has received $122,524 in federal funding for a pilot project to combat homelessness through its public library system.
Dubbed Open Window Hub, the project will allow the city to hire a full-time homelessness prevention worker to provide outreach services through the library, give the homeless a chance to work with a professional to find solutions to their situation, and offer referral services to connect them with other community agencies.
In Mississauga, there are more than 182,000 people living below the poverty line.
“We really identified this component as a gap in our service,” said the city’s library services director, Rose Vespa. “We’re libraries and library workers, and our competencies in terms of social services really didn’t address those needs, and we wanted to be able to do something innovative to reach out to those members of our community with the right skill sets.”
In addition to developing treatment and housing plans to overcome homelessness, the program will aim to provide vulnerable youth and adults with a safe place to seek guidance.
Vespa hopes the new position, which will see training provided to librarians in all 18 branches, will help library staff empathize and understand the complexity of the challenges the at-risk and marginalized face.
The federal government’s Innovative Solutions to Homelessness selected Open Window Hub as part of its funding stream to support new approaches to dealing with homelessness.
The Ministry of Employment and Social Development credits the pilot for trying something new and different — and being people-centered, rather than focusing on the needs of programmers.
“This is going to create a social net that’s going to build support for the people that work in libraries, but also it’s going to build support for people in our community,” Vespa said.
“As a library leader, I want our libraries to be able to break down barriers and be agents of social inclusion and really live our mission in terms of lifelong learning, and this is the way to do it,” she said.
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos credits the City of Mississauga for its “cutting-edge” new projects to help the homeless.
“This project is a prime example of how such a unique outreach program can effectively explore innovative ways to help prevent and reduce homelessness and make a real difference in the lives of community homeless populations,” he said in a statement.
The city hopes the social worker, who will work primarily out of its central branch, will begin by the end of August. Vespa says they’re in the final stages of the hiring process.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie says the pilot will address homelessness challenges unique to the city and “strengthen the hand of front-line professionals by providing important resources that will allow them to help those in need rebuild their lives.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association and the Region of Peel will also work closely with the library system during the program, which is expected to run until July 2018.
Source: Toronto Star