News / Edmonton

Outreach workers that can read between lines

Things have changed at the Stanley A. Milner Library.

The downtown Edmonton Public Library branch, used somewhat as a daytime shelter due to its location, hired outreach workers last year.

One full-time and one part-time worker were hired in July following a provincial funding announcement in May. By October, things were in full swing.

“I think the library feels calmer somehow,” said manager Virginia Clevette.

That, she said, is likely due to a combination of things, including an easy winter. But when comparing incidents for which police had to be called, there was a 36 per cent decrease in 2011 from the year before.

“Is that Jared? Is that just the changing community? I don't know,” said Clevette. “But these people know they have an advocate.”

Full-time outreach worker Jared Tkachuk said he was aware of the situation at the downtown library ' to a point.

“I think I knew, but I didn't know perhaps the extent,” he said. “The more and more I talk to people, the more I find out that this is where people identify as their safe place.”

Many come to the library instead of accessing social services elsewhere, said Tkachuk, estimating he meets with about 20 people each day.

“We encourage the inner city community, and it's OK,” said Clevette. “This is a public city space.”

That, said Tkachuk, is key, as some public spaces see people hurried along.

“The library is one of the last places you can come as you are and be as you are,” he said.

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