Free walk-in counselling thrives at Regina libraries

Finding a listening and sympathetic ear can now be as simple as dropping into Regina libraries with walk-in counselling available.

Family Service Regina expands Thrive drop-in service to library's Central and Albert branches

Regina Public Library's Central branch exterior hasn't changed much since calls for renewal started almost a decade ago. (Janani Whitfield/CBC)

Finding a listening and sympathetic ear in Regina can now be as simple as dropping into a local library.

Two of the city's libraries are the sites for walk-in counselling through Family Service Regina's Thrive program.

The walk-in counselling fits with the library's aim to connect people with services, says Nancy MacKenzie, Regina Public Library's manager of community engagement and programming.

"There are people in some really kind of desperate situations who have stumbled across this service because they're at the library anyway," she said. "So this is fantastic."

Ramping up counselling efforts

Family Service Regina has offered free and low-cost counselling for several years for people who wouldn't have the means to access counselling otherwise, says Kirk Englot, the agency's director of operations.

"In the last year or two, we've decided to really ramp it up because we had some really good data about the effectiveness of that program," he said of the drop-in service.

'Jane' and her husband 'John' say they've been taking turns staying up at night to make sure 'Evan' doesn't hurt himself. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Family Service Regina received a one-year grant through the not-for-profit insurance provider Green Shield Canada to expand the service in an accessible location, and the library came to mind as the perfect spot, he said.

"People can come there to see a counsellor and nobody really knows necessarily … that they're there to do that," he said. "So it's very anonymous and private as well."

Big demand for service

Since starting the service at the Central branch in October, that program has reached more than 75 per cent capacity, with a second drop-in service added this January at the Albert branch as well.

It is truly for everyone.- Nancy MacKenzie, Regina Public Library

Currently, the drop-in service is available to anyone, and MacKenzie notes that counsellors might see a diverse clientele, from people who are facing tough financial times to others who might just drop in on a lunch break from their downtown office.

"It is truly for everyone," she said.

"No one is turned away for any reason at the clinic, unless we don't have any more spots available," added Englot. Based on the success of the program, he said he's hopeful it can continue past the one-year funding.

Family Service Regina offers the drop-in counselling at its own location, 200-1440 Broadway, on Mondays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The service is also available at the Regina Library Central branch on Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays at Albert branch from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.