Downtown library expands successful outreach program

Library adding another social worker, says program has led to safer space downtown

The success of an outreach program for street people has prompted Edmonton’s Stanley Milner library to add another social worker to its staff.

Social worker Jared Tkachuk says word of the program has spread, and social workers are now meeting with up to 30 people a day. (CBC )

"A lot of people were coming here out of necessity. Now we've been able to build an actual foundation of community … I think it has contributed to it having a more peaceful atmosphere," social worker Jared Tkachuk said.

The downtown library is often used as a place for the city’s homeless to gather during the day, before shelters open.

Last year, the library hired Tkachuk to help those visitors find housing and employment.

He says when the program began a year ago, he would walk around downtown to let people on the street know about the program.

Since then, word has spread, and now clients are coming to him.

Soon, Tkachuk and another part-time social worker were handling up to 30 people a day.

"What we thought of at the start was maybe being able to be covered with 1.5  workers. We quickly realized another worker could really do a lot of good."

Library workers say the program has not only helped homeless visitors but has also made the building a safer place.

Branch manager Virginia Clevette says since the program has started, the library has become a safer place. (CBC)

Branch manager Virginia Clevette says since the workers have been on staff, they’ve seen a 40 per cent drop in incidents requiring police.

"There is a feeling of calm and our stats do bear it out," she said.

Clevette thinks the program is unique in Canada and hopes it becomes a trend for downtown libraries in other cities.