A new initiative will help people who are homeless to register as library members and access the full range of resources and information available at the city's 22 libraries.
The pilot scheme, launched this week by Manchester City Council and Lifeshare, will ensure that people who the charity is working with can register for a library card despite not having a permanent address, by using a letter from Lifeshare as their ID. It it is hoped that this will be extended to other voluntary sector organisations working with homeless people in the future.
Access to the library service includes free use of computers and the internet, reference books, DVDs, e-books and audio books. People who are homeless will not be required to pay fines for overdue items.
The Council has invested an extra £1.5m in the last year to help fund extra homelessness services, from evening drop-in provision (offering food, showers and support) to extra beds. In total, there are almost 1,000 temporary bed spaces for single people who become homeless and those who find themselves rough sleeping. These beds are either directly provided or paid for by the Council.
Both Manchester City Council and Lifeshare are members of the Manchester Homelessness Partnership, launched in May 2016, which brings together public, voluntary and faith sector organisations to help tackle homelessness.
To celebrate this new partnership, Manchester council’s digital book supplier Bolinda Borrowbox has donated an iPad Mini to Lifeshare, so that the charity’s clients can start to access digital library services as quickly as possible.
Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said: “Our libraries have always been places where everyone is welcome and this new scheme will ensure that people who are homeless can benefit from the full range of services on offer. This includes access to resources and information which, along with the other support available, can help them to move forwards in their lives."
Judith Vickers, Operations Manager for Lifeshare, said: “I am so pleased that we're working with Manchester City Council to gain access to library cards for our homeless clients - this will be a lifeline for many.
"Due to increased demand for online applications from the Jobcentre, DWP and housing agencies, many clients have previously ended up facing benefit sanctions, or have missed bidding on properties due to not being able to access the internet at the appropriate time. Using Lifeshare as their address will enable them to access library services, breaking down feelings of exclusion and isolation.
"We would like to extend a huge thank you to Bolinda Borrowbox for the iPad Mini, which will enable our clients to access digital services."