How the Library Supports the City's Most Pressing Needs: DPL's Community Resources Program

April 2, 2024

In the past ten years, homelessness in Colorado has increased by 150%, with 14,439 unhoused Coloradans in 2023. As the unhoused population has grown, Denver Public Library (DPL) has expanded its services for library customers experiencing life challenges through its Community Resources (CR) program. 

Community Resources is a non-clinical program focusing on building relationships with customers experiencing life challenges and connecting them to needed city and county resources in the community. CR staff have lived experience, education, and specialized training with homelessness, substance use, mental health, or other life challenges. They aim to support people experiencing these challenges while improving their overall wellness. 

Photo of a person walking with their luggage.

Photo credit: Nathaniel Minor, CPR News

The number of customer interactions with the CR Department has grown year over year, mirroring what Denver is facing. In 2023, the CR team had over 16,000 customer interactions, providing the most support system-wide in the department’s 9-year history. Of the customers supported, 93.3% of library customers experience housing instability, homelessness, utilize a housing voucher, supportive housing, or their housing status is unknown. In 2023, CR assisted 340 times with housing-related issues. This included completing housing applications, rental assistance applications, or landlord advocacy. Going from experiencing homelessness to housing, for some, can take many years. CR also connected customers to services to help with vital documents, assistance with applying for employment, veterans benefits or services, connections to legal assistance/support, social security, mental health, and substance misuse.

In addition to providing a voice of help and knowledgeable assistance with their life challenges, customer needs include: food, water, clothing, and cold weather gear. 

CR’s Branch Resource Coordinator, Nick Donkoh, states: 

“A lot of people who are on the margins don’t feel like they’re being listened to or don’t feel like they’re being respected … [people from more vulnerable populations] are more hesitant to build relationships, but I feel like… once they see that you care … then they’re more open. You can learn more about them, and I think that also makes you better able to serve them. And I think that providing that service to various customers and patrons that we see is critically important.” 

Written by Brittany Javor
Director of Marketing and Communications