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County funds new hire for pilot project helping vulnerable people at Collingwood library

Collingwood Public Library recipient of a $35K grant through County of Simcoe to hire part-time human services navigator
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Collingwood Public Library from Ste. Marie Street. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

The Collingwood Public Library is getting a grant through the County of Simcoe for $35,000 to hire a new part-time human services navigator to help Collingwood’s most vulnerable people who frequent the space.

The pilot project will see the new hire hopefully on-boarded in June, said library chief executive officer Ashley Kulchycki.

“I feel so grateful and thankful that the county is recognizing public libraries as a strong partner to offer this type of service. I think this is going to be a valuable pilot,” Kulchycki told CollingwoodToday.

The contract lasts until the end of December, at which time the pilot will be reevaluated.

“I think it will be illuminating at the end of the pilot to see what those metrics look like. I think it’s really important. This is going to go a long way for a lot of us here,” she said.

Kulchycki said that on average, the library sees about 12 people a day who are experiencing a barrier of some kind, either homelessness, addiction, or food insecurity.

“We have a lot of partnerships with organizations, but they can only be here so many hours a day,” Kulchycki explained. “This person will help support our staff when those organizations aren’t on-site. Right now, our staff are doing this work.”

In February, the Collingwood Public Library released data on incidents of violence and harassment over the past year and a half that showed incidents levelling off, a trend the CEO attributed to milder weather this year. Incidents included assault, narcotics use and sexual harassment, and the report noted that the library recorded 46 incidents since October 2022.

While Kulchycki said that over the years, library staff have become skilled at providing these types of services, it’s not in their job description and the library will benefit from having someone to perform that role with experience.

“We are always there to help people... but to have the time to make meaningful connections and reach out to someone will support those individuals a lot more,” she said.

The pilot has been tested in other areas. At the Orillia Public Library, they were given approval by their city council to hire an outreach worker in the fall of 2022. By the summer of 2023, that library was reporting the number of concerning incidents had dropped dramatically.

“It’s continuing the work that a lot of libraries are doing in connecting people with the resources they need to meet their basic needs like food security, housing and health care,” said Kulchycki.

“This individual will help people in our space to obtain these services.”

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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