Award of Excellence: A Book for Every Child Initiative
Housing Alliance and Community Partnerships (HACP, formerly known as the Housing Authority of the City of Pocatello) wins a 2017 Award of Excellence in Client and Resident Services for their Book for Every Child Initiative. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.
Access to education can be a key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Housing Alliance and Community Partnerships (HACP) wanted to encourage their youngest residents to read by taking every opportunity to get books into their hands. They created the Book for Every Child Initiative to ensure that every child who comes into their office or is a resident is given an age-appropriate book. HACP also installed Free Little Libraries on their properties that they manage and stock with an assortment of books to make it easier for children to stop and grab a book at any time.
HACP used multiple resources to build up their stock of books. An initial Facebook campaign garnered donations not only from the members of their local community but also from housing agencies nationwide. Featuring their new initiative in a newsletter resulted in several small donations from elderly public housing residents. Staff members even staked out yard sales on the weekends, resulting in even more donations.
As the initiative expanded, HACP partnered with the neighboring Nampa Housing Authority to submit an order to First Book, a nonprofit that gives books to children living in poverty. Each organization received approximately 1,200 books for their smallest residents.
As a part of the initiative, every child who walks into the HACP office receives an age-appropriate book. If parents have office appointments but their children are not present, they are still given an age-appropriate book for each child listed as part of their household. Caseworkers lined their offices with bookshelves to make it easier to give out the books. Their Free Little Libraries are also regularly stocked with a variety of books and there is no expectation that the “borrowed” books be returned. Lastly, books are distributed at HACP sponsored community events such as homeless stand downs, open houses, and national night out events.
According to HACP, the “impact has been huge!” Over 500 books have been distributed to children in their community. The excitement reading of new books even led a child to call HACP to ask when the Free Little Library in their neighborhood would be restocked.