Put a Sock on it ‘Sauga, aims to provide the city’s homeless with socks to ensure their feet stay warm and dry. The initiative is part of the library’s Open Window Hub pilot project, which helps the homeless as well as vulnerable youth and adults.

“Socks are the most requested item at shelters and the least donated,” said Rose Vespa, library services director. “Through our outreach program, we want to make sure our homeless population has the supplies they need to get through this cold winter. Put a Sock on it ‘Sauga is one unique way to assist the local homeless community.”

The Mississauga Library’s Open Window Hub project began in September following an award of more than $120-thousand in funding through the Government of Canada Innovative Solutions to Homelessness program. The program’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy supports the development of innovative approaches to prevent and reduce homelessness. Last year, Mississauga submitted a proposal through its library system for the development of the Open Window Hub.

According to the Mississauga Food Bank, the issue of homelessness has ties to the issue of poverty. In Mississauga, there are more than 182,000 people that live below the poverty line.

Objectives of the Open Window Hub include: promoting inclusiveness of vulnerable youth and adults; providing outreach services in the library; allowing the homeless to work with a homeless prevention outreach worker to prepare plans to address their situation and offering a referral service that connects those at risk or those who are homeless with community agencies that provide tools and resources for empowerment.

The Open Window Hub promotes the development and maintenance of partnerships between the library and other service organizations, as well as creating “innovative day-time library programs that provide outreach and links to services for the homeless population they can easily access through our libraries,” adds Vespa.

Kevin Barry is the homeless prevention outreach worker available through the Open Window Hub to support and empower homeless and at-risk individuals. Barry assists those in need by developing treatment and housing plans to overcome homelessness and connect those in need to necessary services. Vespa stresses the importance of the homeless prevention outreach worker who “will connect directly with homeless clients while helping our libraries and staff to remove barriers to services and to increase social inclusion.”

Though the sock drive was intended to target the month of February, donations for new socks, mittens, gloves and hats are welcome at any Mississauga Library location throughout the winter season.

“Response (to the drive) has been pretty large so far,” says Barry, who sees many opportunities for the community to offer its support through similar initiatives as the Hub evolves.

Socks or other donated items are available for pick-up from the Central Library at 301 Burnhamthorpe Rd. West. For information about the Open Window Hub or sock drive, call 905-615-3200, ext. 3541.

Photo (l-r) Kevin Berry, homelessness prevention outreach worker; Ward 3 Councillor Chris Fonseca and Rose Vespa, library services director.