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GELS: Growing Equitable Library Services

Resources related to the GELS series

Family Homelessness and CT Libraries

For many years libraries have been identified as community hubs, community equalizers, and the community's living room. Those terms paint a picture of families reading in corners, college students writing papers, and people reading newspapers and magazines in comfortable chairs. By design, libraries are spaces that are open to anyone who wants to walk through the door, and that includes a hidden portion of the population, people experiencing homelessness. 

While libraries may or may not have been traditional partners for organizations who work with people experiencing homelessness, they are often vital spaces for this portion of our communities. Libraries are open in the evenings and on weekends and provide increasingly important resources including computers and access to the internet.  Many libraries act as heating and/or cooling centers during extreme weather events, and all  provide a safe, free, and reliable place for all members of the community. 

If libraries indeed want to act as community equalizers, that means providing services for and treating with respect, not only our most affluent and traditional library users, but those often overlooked. 

Librarian Vikki Terelli, has over 20 years of experience in library service and a robust background working with patrons experiencing food and housing insecurity in shelters, libraries, and on college campuses. 

This interactive virtual training will introduce participants to family homelessness in the United States, specifically family homelessness in Connecticut, and how libraries can support children and families in homeless situations. Prior to the Great Recession, families with children had been the fastest growing population to experience housing instability and deprivation; the recession led to dramatic increases in family homelessness that had not abated fully in the years leading up to the COVID-19 crisis. Widespread economic instability and potential evictions resulting from the pandemic are expected to increase the number of children and families in homeless situations again.

Within this context, libraries can serve as crucial community resource for children and parents whose housing is unstable. This training will provide practical tips for connecting with local schools and community organizations to understand the nature of family homelessness in your community and to reach families where they are. It will also address the range of services and programming options that you can offer, how to address barriers to creating and sustaining these services, and how to leverage these activities to advocate for families and for libraries.

CT Coalition to End Homelessness

While a great deal of insight can be gathered by working with individuals and organizations who operate on a national level, more specialized data and information can often be gathered working with local organizations. The CT Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) creates change through leadership, advocacy, and building the capacity of members and the field to respond to environmental challenges. Their collective mission is to prevent and end homelessness in Connecticut. 

CCEH provided the introductory training below for library staff to build their toolkit to help people navigate a housing crisis. The training provided an overview of the homeless response system and basic knowledge about available resources, and focused on how to effectively intervene in a housing crisis and assist in connecting people experiencing homelessness and housing instability to services. There was an emphasis on the practice of Shelter Diversion, which is a strategy that prevents homelessness at the front door by helping people identify immediate alternative housing arrangements to shelter and, if necessary, connect them with services and financial assistance to help them return to permanent housing. Diversion can reduce the number of households becoming homeless, the demand for shelter beds, and the size of program wait lists.


This project is funded by the State of Connecticut and the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Connecticut State Library. 

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