Connection Kits Reach People in Need

Oceanfront Area Library and its partners create 75 kits full of hygiene products and helpful resources

For individuals experiencing homelessness, there is often a gap between the basic needs of food and shelter, and true connections with resoures able to help with job placement, addictions, mental health and more.

Often these individuals are drawn to libraries, feeling they are a safe place. It is especially true in the resort area of Virginia Beach at Oceanfront Area Library. Through two grants received by the Virginia Beach Library Foundation on behalf of Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL), Oceanfront Library staff launched a plan to create "Connection Kits" to help fill the gap.

Connection Kits 1.pngIn April, thanks to the grants from the VB Home Now Foundation and 4imprints' One-by One program, Oceanfront Area Library and its partners were able to pack 75 kits, each consisting of hygiene and safety products like toothbrushes and toothpaste, washcloths, soap, shampoo, a flashlight, reusable aluminum water bottle and more. Information from City agencies, non-profits and faith-based groups was added to connect the recipient with resources to sustain them and help move them out of homelessness. Each kit was then placed in a locking weather-resistant backpack.

Forty kits were distributed to partners in the resort area, including PATH Homeless Assistance Program, Stand Up for Kids, the homeless liaison for the Police Department's 2nd Precinct, and the resort area's housing outreach office. The partners' common strategy is "housing first" - once individuals are housed, it's easier to provide services and resources for mental health, job placement and more. The remaining 35 Connection Kits stayed at Oceanfront Area Library and are available to anyone who is experiencing homelessness.

Connection Kits 2.png

The first Connection Kit was distributed on May 5 and the project is seeing encouraging results. One recipient, a man in his late 40s, was in immediate need of the hygiene products, and used the resources included in the kit to connect with a housing specialist the same day. He also signed up for a library account. Another recipient was a teen who needed immediate shelter; he connected with Stand Up for Kids and was placed in housing before the end of the day.

Oceanfront Area Library and its community partners will continue distributing Connection Kits thanks to the two grant programs. Cynthia Hart, manager of Oceanfront Area Library said, "Virginia Beach is a very caring community with many groups working hard to help people. It's essential that we have a way to pull all of the good stuff together and deliver it to those in need."

While the Oceanfront branch will be closing temporarily for renovations on Saturday, June 26 at 5 p.m., the Connection Kits will still be available through the network of partners in the community.

Top right image: Connection Kit items are prepped for the weather-resistant backpack
Bottom left image: Library Services Specialist Deborah Bell holds a filled Connection Kit backpack

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