National Runaway Safeline

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Partner Spotlight: Detroit Public Library

Detroit Public Library, Jefferson Branch: Helping to Connect Homeless Youth to Critical Resources

Mary Jo Vortkamp Detroit Public LibraryIn her 36-year career with the Detroit Public Library, Mary Jo Vortkamp has helped the library expand its community focus. Visitors take advantage of the books and media offered, but today branches also serve as casual community centers, study spaces, and after-school havens.

“For families and youth experiencing homelessness, the library can be a safe, warm place to access the internet, study, read and connect with others,” Mary Jo explains. “This presents us with opportunities to inform people about and connect them to resources.”

The Detroit Public Library enlightens and empowers people by providing diverse and dynamic pathways to literacy and learning. As an integral part of the community, library branches are effective partners in National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM). In fact, libraries from California to Florida have joined the NRPM 2021 partner community to help increase awareness and educate the public about the issues affecting runaway and homeless youth.  

Detroit Public Library NRPM Display

Several libraries have stepped up to support NRPM after hearing from Mary Jo. Each year, she spearheads the Jefferson Branch’s involvement in NRPM, and as part of her efforts, she engages librarians in Detroit, throughout Michigan, and across the country. She shares resources that are available to homeless youth, and encourages librarians to connect young people to local organizations and service providers. Recognizing the influence of other professionals, Mary Jo also liaises with social workers throughout Wayne County in Michigan and out-of-school and after-school program coordinators in Detroit. 

As a founding board member with the Detroit Phoenix Center, Mary Jo continues to shines a light on youth homelessness outside of her work at the library. The Detroit Phoenix Center provides critical resources, wraparound support, and a safe, nurturing environment to youth who are transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. They have been a longtime partner in NRPM.

 NRPM partners continually impress us with their creativity, passion, and commitment to increasing awareness about the homeless youth crisis in the U.S. We thank Mary Jo at the Detroit Public Library’s Jefferson Branch and the entire partner community that is working tirelessly to support runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth each day.

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Please join us for the National Runaway Safeline’s (NRS) annual fundraising event, Celebrating the Spirit of Youth.  This year’s event will focus on “writing the next chapter” by showcasing the possibilities and highlighting the importance of activating change for the 4.2 million young people who experience homelessness every year.

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