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Your Local Library: A Space for Everyone. Sheila Kelly

Library services for homeless people, refugees and asylum seekers.

While anecdotal evidence indicates that many homeless people use public libraries we took a proactive approach to ensure that homeless people, particularly those living in hostels, hubs and hotels, are made welcome in our libraries.

I worked with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive to identify hubs and hostels and make contact with Case Workers/ Development managers to connect with these hard to reach people. I also contacted refugee and integration centres in the city to include them in the project. The idea was to relax membership rules and create linkages between the hubs and a particular local branch library, thereby providing a sort of ‘personal’ service to individuals who may not have been previously familiar with libraries or who may perceive them as institutions that may fail them. The singular aim of the project was to ensure that homeless people and asylum seekers would enjoy the same entitlement and quality library service that we deliver to everyone equally.

The project commenced in September 2018 and is ongoing and has some successes but it is not without difficulties. During the course of the presentation I would like to extrapolate my learning from the project and share my experience and of course learn from other services that may have addressed this issue.

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Your Local Library: A Space for Everyone. Sheila Kelly

  1. 1. Your Local Library: A Space for Everyone Library services for homeless people, refugees and asylum Seekers Sheila Kelly, Divisional Librarian, Equality and Social Inclusion Dublin City Public Libraries
  2. 2. Homeless Services Dublin Region Homeless Executive Dublin Region Central Placement Service Homeless Charities Family Homeless Action Teams Dublin City Council
  3. 3. Supported Temporary Accommodation • Hostels are the main form of emergency accommodation provided for single homeless people. Hostels can be short-term or long-term • Dormitories or single rooms and some include meals and other services. Some may charge for accommodation on a nightly or weekly basis. • Referrals on the day or further up to 6 months • Other emergency accommodation- bed and breakfasts, hotels or family hubs used for people for whom hostel accommodation is not suitable, due to the size or composition of the household or to particular medical or social needs
  4. 4. Family Hubs • Replacing commercial hotels for families • Separate bed rooms, play space, cooking and laundry facilities and communal recreation space • Often for families with children who have lost their rented accommodation or become registered as homeless • Security of an ongoing placement, which they may not have in a hotel • Supports made available for families as they move on to other housing options, when they become available
  5. 5. Library service: Aim and Focus Our main focus is to offer individuals and families living in supported temporary accommodation the opportunity to use our library services in the same way that everyone else does. Our aim is to make their homelessness invisible and offer a quality service and welcoming space as we do to everyone. We may offer specific services depending on service development and the management of particular hubs/hostels /hotels. Focus Ireland’s Family Homeless Action Team Leaders have been briefed on library services available for people accessing emergency accommodation
  6. 6. Library Services for people in Supported Temporary Accommodation • Ease of membership • Block Loan • Storytelling session and introduction to the library service • Contact persons • Library Tours and orientation for Development Managers • Change of address reminder • Specific targeted/individualised service
  7. 7. These books are borrowed from Ballymun Library. You can take one to your room to read but please leave it back as soon as you are finished so that everyone can enjoy them. We will have the books for a few weeks and we will put up a notice a few days before they are due back so all the books can be returned and swapped for new ones. If you want to join Ballymun library yourself, it’s easy and everything is free! The library is on Ballymun Road and you can phone 8421890 or go to Happy Reading!
  8. 8. Challenges • Development Managers not assigned • Development Managers not engaged with Library services • Very quick turnover in staff in hubs • Various and diverse charities involved • Serious difficulties with access • Privacy • Location and distance from Library
  9. 9. Thank You! “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelou