Casual cash employment co-ordinator Shaina Hoadley and chief librarian Ken Feser stand outside the social work office on the lower level of the Medicine Hat Public Library. Hoadley is holding the Government of Alberta’s Minister’s Awards for Municipal and Public Library Excellence recently received for the program run by MHPL.–NEWS PHOTO SAMANTHA JOHNSON

Samantha Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Funded by Community Housing, the program has been accessed by more than 50 people since inception.

Supporting the self-determination of clients in the best way possible is the aim of the program, explains program co-ordinator Shaina Hoadley.

“I gather the work opportunities we have available and I put it on the table in front of the participants and they get to choose when, where and how they work,” Hoadley said. “I say, this is all of the work we have, sign up if you like. It’s not me chasing down people saying, ‘You need to work this number of hours and you’re scheduled to do this.’ It’s really supportive for their own needs on an individual, unique basis. They get the opportunity to say, ‘Yes, I want to do this,’ or’ ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ Whatever works for them.”

Casual Cash for Employment participants work during Community Coffee mornings, held Monday and Friday at 10 a.m. in the Honor Currie room on the lower level of the library. Additionally, they also assist with the Cat Café held once each month in partnership with the SPCA, which brings in a few local cats in need of adoption.

“We have our workers host what is a Community Coffee, but our Cat Café edition, that has the mutual benefit of a partnership and is in addition to the regular Monday and Friday Community Coffee schedule,” said Hoadley.

There has been la lot going on at the library in the past year and workers have helped with the recent Friends of the Library book sale and also with events, such as Together Again, the Mental Health Fair, Cultural Fair and the opening of the Honeycomb House.

In 2021, when the library was pursuing funding for bringing in a social worker, officials were told it was a high priority for Community Housing to have organizations provide employment for marginalized individuals and the vulnerable population.

“Nobody else was putting forward ideas so we thought we could do this and (the library) would be a good place for it,” explained chief librarian Ken Feser. “One of the great advantages is we are an open institution, so this is a place where people can have connections with those outside their groups in the community, and that adds to the impact because we are working with the entire community. Much as the money makes a big difference in people’s lives — and we hear stories about how valuable the money they get saves them in other financial areas — they also report the sense of social connection and belonging in the community is more important to them, and that can only happen in a place like the library.”

As far as Feser knows, MHPL is still the only agency to date to have accessed this funding from Community Housing.

“We would say it’s a great program, we find the participants have been very conscientious. We feel it’s been an easy, high impact program to run and has been a big benefit to us as well as the participants,” Feser said.

The Government of Alberta’s Minister’s Award for Municipal and Public Library Excellence is a big deal for the library.

“This is for services or initiatives that are above and beyond for libraries and municipalities. It’s a real validation of what we are doing,” stated Feser.

Visit https://www.alberta.ca/ministers-awards-for-public-library-service-previous-recipients#jumplinks-0 to access a link to the award announcement video for MHPL, and go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RQrz41aTdA to view a video created by the library about the Casual Cash for Employment program.

By: Samantha Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 05, 2024 at 14:34

This item reprinted with permission from   Medicine Hat News   Medicine Hat, Alberta

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