Mississauga Library receives donation for homeless outreach initiative

The Mississauga Library received a $390,000 donation from the P. and L. Odette Charitable Foundation in support of its homelessness initiative, the Open Window Hub.

The pilot project helps homeless, at-risk individuals and vulnerable youth and adults in Mississauga. The program connects them with resources, outreach programs and better access to services to help raise their quality of life. Over the span of three years, the library will receive $130,000 per year to support the program.

“We are really grateful to be the recipient of this very generous donation from the P. and L. Odette Charitable Foundation, who has a history supporting homelessness prevention initiatives in the Greater Toronto Area,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “We remain committed to doing everything we can to elevate the quality of life for our most vulnerable citizens. This past week, during our budget deliberations, our city council agreed to allocate additional library funding that would transition the Open Window Hub from a pilot program to a permanent community service allowing us to continue to assist at-risk and homeless individuals rebuild their lives.”

The foundation chose the Open Window Hub after learning about the work of the initiative from the city’s homelessness prevention outreach worker, Kevin Berry.

“Open Window Hub addresses the growing needs of individuals experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness, in Mississauga,” said Lori Kelly, library services director. “There has been an increase in individuals connecting with services, so we know there is a direct need for it. Libraries are evolving community spaces. The programs and services offered through the Open Window Hub are a reflection of the expanding role libraries play in providing support to customers experiencing homelessness. The work we do every day makes a difference in the lives of so many individuals. The P. and L. Odette Charitable donation will provide us with the additional funding we need to effectively explore ways to help prevent and reduce homelessness and support our most vulnerable customers.”

Over the course of this year, the library will use the donation to provide training in mental health first aid to enhance all staff’s skills in supporting vulnerable individuals; invest in social work masters students to intern and provide more hours of service delivery to support both staff and vulnerable individuals; and sustainably fund items and services in high demand for vulnerable individuals, such as the hygiene kits and Presto cards.

The library will develop plans for the second and third-year funds in response to the public need, which is consistent with the terms of the agreement with the foundation.

Kelly recounts some of the pilot project’s successes.

“Through the course of the one year pilot, we’ve been able to support and empower more than 500 individuals, connecting them with information, support and referrals to agencies across the region,” she said. “In addition, we have also removed barriers to library services and increased social inclusion. We have seen incredible support from the community for this program with initiatives like Put a Sock on it Sauga sock drive and the milk bag donations which have helped raise funds and supplies for our most vulnerable customers.”

The Open Window Hub launched in September 2017. It was funded in part by the federal government Homelessness Partnering Strategy. Delivered nationally, the Innovative Solutions to Homelessness funding stream of the strategy supports the development of innovative approaches to prevent and reduce homelessness.

Visit mississauga.ca/library for more information on the Mississauga Library and its programs and services.

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