Helping homeless people into employment

Zagreb City Libraries, Croatia

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A homeless person learning how to use a computer in the library.
Homeless people are learning essential ICT skills through the Zagreb City Libraries employment information and training service.

Community need

Reasons for homelessness are diverse – unemployment, insolvency, divorce, troubled childhoods, addiction, psychological and physical problems, and many more. Whatever the reason, homeless people need special attention. Zagreb City Libraries (ZCL), a network of public libraries that serves Zagreb and Zagreb County, works with this complex social group to increase their employability and build their self-image and confidence.

The innovative service

Initiated with support from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) in 2011, the library’s service combines information and technology (ICT) training, employment information, job-seeking skills, motivation and psychosocial support. Training takes place in Kosnica, Zagreb’s largest homeless shelter, so that homeless people do not have to spend money travelling to the library, and because some feel more comfortable learning in the shelter.

ICT courses include using the internet to look for work and applying for jobs online. Social workers provide motivation and psychosocial support. The library created a resource centre in the shelter, with books and magazines. Now the resource centre is staffed by homeless people, and homeless people also conduct ICT training.

EIFL-PLIP PROJECT TIMELINE

November 2011 - October 2012.

achievements and Impact

  • In less than a year (2011/2012), the library trained 63 people to use ICT - more than 15% of all registered homeless people in Zagreb. The service helped 22 homeless people get permanent, part-time or temporary jobs.
  • Two more homeless shelters are now offering ICT training for job-seekers, and the service inspired Zagreb’s Law Faculty to establish a free legal clinic for the homeless.
  • Despite budget cuts across a range of other special projects in the city in 2012, Zagreb City Council granted 10,000 Kunas (about €1,300) to ZCL in recognition of the value of the library’s work with the homeless.
  • In May 2012, the library hosted a conference to raise awareness about homelessness in Croatia. Titled A Second Chance: Challenges and Perspectives of Working with the Homeless, the conference brought together representatives of local authorities, scientists, social workers, psychologists, shelter managers, volunteers and librarians.
  • In July 2012, the library’s work led to a partnership with the Legal Clinic of the Law Faculty at Zagreb University, and creation of a free legal advice centre for the homeless.
  • In February 2014, the library launched their book about homelessness in Croatia, based on their ICT training and employment service for the homeless, and including papers from the conference, A Second Chance: Challenges and Perspectives of Working with the Homeless.
No surrender! I continually spent time on the computers that the library installed in the shelter, and searched for a job online. I have found permanent employment.
Dubravko Bernfest, resident of a homeless shelter for four years.