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Councillor concerned about social services hub location downtown

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A Winnipeg city councillor is raising questions about the location of a downtown hub offering information and referrals to social services.

The community connections space opened initially in 2022 in the lobby of the Millennium Library, at a cost of $236,000.

Coun. Evan Duncan said he has privacy concerns for those in crisis using the space and the impact those situations could have on other library patrons.

"What I don't want to see is someone in crisis paraded through a public area," said Duncan. "Other folks, patrons of the library as well, children. I don't want them being exposed unnecessarily to that."

The space was closed in December 2022 following a stabbing death and it was closed until the fall of 2023, when it reopened matching the library's hours.

Bonnie Chomiak believes the space is a good fit in the library and she has reached out for help herself.

"Someone to talk to and give pertinent information," said Chomiak.

This comes after the Louis Riel Library was shut down for half an hour Friday because of an intoxicated person.

A report to the Community Service Committee showed more than 2,500 referrals for things like phone services, paper copying, and housing were made through the hub in November and December.

Community advocates say the hub's location coincides with the need.

"Why would you fix something that's working?" asked Kate Kehler with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

"So somehow there's a narrative out there that somehow now that there's a community connections space there, there are people who are there that struggle. Those folks were always there.

Duncan said the services are needed downtown, but suggested the city doesn't have the proper resources.

"It's an essential service, especially downtown where we see people struggling. But to make sure it's in the appropriate location and that it's being funded appropriately by the provincial government."

The report to the committee also said there were 930 visits to the space in November and 1,274 in December.

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