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An estimated 22 million people live in manufactured housing communities (MHCs, pejoratively known as “trailer parks”) across the country, representing the largest sector of non-subsidized, affordable housing in the United States. Residents of these communities often include single mothers and recent immigrants, young families on limited income, and retirees. With an income half the national average, many of these communities face significant obstacles in accessing the Internet—for work, education, and long-distance social relations, or entertainment.
By repurposing non-traditional public spaces in the community, the Manufactured Housing Initiative (MHI) targets rural communities struggling to access reliable information, education, and cultural resources.
Our Response: Transforming Storm Shelters into Literacy Hubs
The Manufactured Housing Initiative is a partnership between Libraries Without Borders US (LWB US), manufactured housing communities, and public libraries that brings WiFi connections, along with books, art materials, computers, and iPads loaded with educational and career-focused resources, to a repurposed storm shelter or other public access space. The model for this program is our successful Wash and Learn Initiative (WALI), which transforms laundromats into libraries and learning hubs in cities across the US.
In 2019, the Park Plaza Cooperative in Fridley, MN partnered with LWB US to establish a community library and learning hub in their local storm shelter. In the summer of 2020, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded LWB US a grant to expand this literacy and digital literacy hub. With additional support from the Minnesota Department of Education, LWB US is transforming the Park Plaza Cooperative’s storm shelter into a community hub where residents of all ages can participate in digital literacy workshops, get critical information about health and nutrition, and even access legal support. During COVID-19, LWB US has worked with its partners to transition from in-person services, programming, and workshops to virtual programs that adhere to sanitary measures and safety guidelines., LWB US and the Anoka County LIbrary collaborate on bimonthly, virtual programming focused on storytime and adult ESL classes. LWB US and the leadership of the Park Plaza Cooperative are also creating a computer lending library.
Alongside the Park Plaza project, LWB US works with the Blandin Foundation and the Minnesota Department of Education to scale the project to rural areas of Minnesota, building partnerships between libraries and MHCs one repurposed space at a time. LWB US collaborates with several, rural, Manufactured Housing Communities and county libraries in Minnesota, and with elected officials and business leaders. Through these partnerships and initiatives, LWB US leads a growing regional effort to close the digital divide and ensure access to information for all.
For questions and more information, please contact LWB US Manufactured Housing Project Coordinator Edward Hilbrich at firstname.lastname@example.org