Libraries are known as places of refuge for students and book lovers. But they are increasingly becoming a refuge for an often neglected part of the population: Canada’s homeless. Edmonton’s Colin Mulholland found himself on the streets five years ago – unemployed, drinking, and full of rage.”I went through this chaos and ultimately got to the darkest I’ve ever been.”

He shuffled between shelters until he found refuge at the Edmonton Public Library. He began to “fake read and sleep” to compensate for the poor sleep he received at shelters. His relationship with the library only grew from there. A social worker, Jared Tkachuk, was hired to wander the library and offer support to people in need, such as Colin. He started working with Colin and “he and the library became a safe place.” Colin took advantage of the programs and support the library offered him and is now studying for his BA at the University of Alberta, and has already completed a diploma in social work.

Edmonton isn’t the only library system in Canada that provides social services such as assistance in finding housing, employment and legal advice. Similar programs exist in at least five cities across Canada, with many more keeping an eye on this trend and looking into starting similar programs.

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