The Goddard Riverside Book Fair enters its third decade with a renewed sense of commitment to helping homeless people make the transition into permanent housing. The Book Fair will be held at Goddard Riverside’s headquarters at 593 Columbus Avenue on Saturday, Nov. 21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 22 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, see goddard.org/bookfair.
The Book Fair features thousands of brand-new books donated by some of the world’s top publishing houses. They are sold at a 50 percent discount to support the programs of Goddard Riverside Community Center.
Publishers organized the first Book Fair 29 years ago. Back then, deinstitutionalization was putting thousands of vulnerable people on the streets of Manhattan. At the same time, single-room occupancy buildings, which provided low-quality but affordable rooms, were being converted into high-priced housing.
“The SROs had started closing fast,” remembers book editor and Goddard Riverside Community Center board member Amy Mintzer, who has been involved with the Book Fair since nearly the beginning. “It created what felt like an Upper West Side crisis.”
A group of publishers approached Goddard Riverside, a pioneer of homeless street outreach programs. They decided to raise money through a book fair—and a New York holiday tradition was born.
Today, homelessness is in the headlines again. And again, publishing houses are stepping up. “I’m amazed and touched by the loyalty of the publishing industry to this agency and this cause,” says Mintzer. “They really care.”
Companies supporting this year’s event include: Workman, MacMillan, Sterling, Random House, Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Putnam, Scholastic, Abrams, Simon and Schuster, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Quayside, Rosetta, Atria, Michael Friedman Group, Perseus, Cooper Hewitt (Smithsonian), Abrams, Knopf Doubleday, The Quarto Group, Black Dog & Leventhal, and Quercus.
While the problem of homelessness may seem intractable, significantly better solutions have been developed over the last 29 years. The most important innovation is supportive housing, which provides permanent housing and built-in services to help people recover from addictions, trauma, mental health issues and other challenges.
In addition to being the lead agency for homeless street outreach for all of Manhattan, Goddard Riverside provides 410 units of supportive housing. It also offers eviction prevention services and programs to help homeless and formerly homeless people learn life and job skills.
“As a historic settlement house, Goddard Riverside works within our community to help all people live full and rewarding lives,” said Goddard Riverside Executive Director Stephan Russo. “We truly appreciate the support of our friends in the publishing industry who share those goals.”
Goddard Riverside Community Center is one of New York City’s leading human service organizations, assisting more than 17,000 people yearly with services including early childhood and youth programs, college counseling, supportive housing, employment readiness, older adult services and outreach to homeless people.