Utah librarians team with homeless shelter to help families

Utah librarians team with homeless shelter to help families

(Teri Harman)

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SALT LAKE CITY — In 1923, a shelter was established in downtown Salt Lake City for stranded travelers. Today, The Road Home does far more than provide shelter for those in need.

“The organization’s objectives are to help people get off the streets and into a safe, stable environment.” said Celeste Eggert, media liaison with The Road Home.

The shelter also provides supportive services that connect people with community resources and help ensure the transition to housing is done as quickly and smoothly as possible.

“The Road Home believes access to housing paired with case management offers the greatest hope for individuals and families to overcome homelessness,” Eggert said.

In 2013, the shelter served 7,065 individuals, including 3,925 single men, 899 single women, and 680 families consisting of 1,342 children and 1,011 adults.

Eighty-seven percent of families placed through The Road Home Housing Program have not returned to homelessness.

How librarians are helping

One of the successful community partnerships that helps families with the housing transition is with the Salt Lake County Library System. Heather Novotny, a children’s librarian, noticed that the Midvale location of The Road Home, open during the winter months, fell within the library’s service area.

“This shelter is underserviced compared to the ones in the Salt Lake area. Heather found this especially alarming due to the number of children living at The Road Home,” said Stacy Vincent, another Salt Lake County librarian.

I enjoy sharing my love of books with all children, but with these kids, who have so little, it means so much more,

–Cynthia Hinckley, Riverton librarian

With the help of a team of enthusiastic librarians using donated books, and the support of The Road Home staff, Novotny started a weekly story time for the children at the shelter in January 2013.

Armed with master’s degrees in library and information services and special training in early literacy, the librarians design story times to teach both parents and children the fundamentals of reading. These story times include not only reading of books, but also music, action rhymes, interactive stories and crafts.

“Many homeless adults have trouble accessing library resources due to lack of awareness, transportation and a permanent address,” Vincent said.

To help the adults as well as the children, parents who bring their children to story time receive a free single-use computer guest pass to use at the library.

The Road Home recently opened its doors for the 2013-14 winter season. Cynthia Hinckley, a librarian at Riverton Library, presented the first story time last week.

“I enjoy sharing my love of books with all children, but with these kids, who have so little, it means so much more,” she said.

This season, the librarians are holding story time twice a week due to popular demand. The librarians are also working to secure a grant that would allow them to buy high quality educational toys for the children who come to the shelter. Currently, there are few toys.

How you can help this holiday season

Many of the Salt Lake County Library locations will have Giving Trees set up this holiday season to collect donations for The Road Home shelter and others in need. Please visit your local branch and donate.

The shelter is also always in need of the following: new or gently used winter outerwear, boots, warm clothing, socks and personal hygiene items, especially toothbrushes, body wash, diapers, wipes and feminine hygiene products.

For more information on donations and volunteer opportunities, please contact Celeste Eggert at ceggert@theroadhome.org.


About the Author: Teri Harman -----------------------------

Teri Harman, author and book enthusiast, writes a biweekly column for ksl.com and contributes book-related segments to Studio 5. Her debut novel, "Blood Moon," is now available in stores and online. Join in the magic and chaos at teriharman.com.*


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