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Posted on October 28, 2015 | 2:44 p.m.

Santa Barbara Housing Authority Earns Award for Little Outdoor Library Initiative

Source: Amy Bernstein for Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara

A Little Outdoor Library

The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara (HACSB), which has long been recognized for its holistic approach to providing affordable housing and programs for low income families, was recently honored with a national award for its Little Outdoor Library initiative, an innovation in youth literacy and community awareness. 

The National Association of Housing and Development Officials (NAHRO), America’s leading housing and community development professional association, presented an Award of Excellence for the Little Outdoor Library initiative to HACSB leadership Oct. 15, 2015, at the NAHRO National Conference and Exhibition at the Los Angeles Convention Center. 

Nominated from among the Award of Merit winners each year, these competitive awards are chosen by national juries to recognize outstanding innovation and achievement in housing and community development programs throughout the country.

Winners are honored at the National Conference and Exhibition and in articles in the Journal of Housing and Community Development.

“For such a small and delightful object, each Little Outdoor Library represents a significant community commitment to provide our families more than just housing, but also the benefits and joy of literacy,” said Rob Pearson, executive director and CEO, Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara. “With the amazing participation of local families, civic groups, businesses, nonprofits and other supporters, this village is giving its all to ensure the success of our community’s most valuable players: our children.”

In the last several years, HACSB has initiated programs within its Resident Services Department, in partnership with its affiliate non-profit 2nd Story Associates, targeting literacy and education of youth residing in Public Housing.

Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success, yet every year, more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.

Realizing approximately 61 percent of low income families do not have books at home for their children, HACSB staff sought ways to make access to books easy and fun, and the idea for the Little Outdoor Libraries was born, then launched in 2014 through a special partnership with Leadership Santa Barbara County. 

With book donations from the Santa Barbara Public Library, Noah benShea and The Justice Project and 2nd Story Associates, HACSB was able to open a Little Outdoor Library at three of their Public Housing family developments.

Community groups and resident families working together, as well as local businesses and nonprofits providing financial and volunteer support, quickly elevated the program to become a beloved, community-wide effort and a platform to bring awareness to the subject of youth literacy.

Based on the success of the program, HACSB plans to expand the Little Outdoor Libraries to all of its family developments. 

October is Housing America Month. Housing America is NAHRO's campaign that aims to raise national awareness of the need for and importance of safe, quality, affordable housing through education, advocacy and empowerment.

Amy Bernstein is a publicist representing Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara

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