The City of Orillia approved a new outreach worker position to help people in need in the community.

“Not every call is a call for enforcement. Sometimes it’s a call for social service,” said Maj. Steve Clarke.

The City says the outreach worker will be stationed at the Orillia Public Library and throughout the downtown core.

In the past three years, library staff expressed a need for security, with more than 200 reported incidents ranging from drug overdoses to violence and theft.

Clarke noted the issues had become more prominent in recent years.

“When some of the social services that were normally or readily available were less available because of COVID and distancing, some of the mental health issues were exasperated,” the mayor said.

Library staff said they often felt unprepared to handle certain situations.

“Issues of addiction, poverty, mental health are not within the training that library workers get and they often feel frustrated by the fact that they’re not able to help people,” said library CEO Bessie Sullivan.

Staff at the public library are optimistic about the City’s approach to dealing with the problem. They hope the outreach worker will offer support to staff, both by training and by debriefing after a situation.

Orillia’s elder sees it as a “great liaison.”

“I do believe it will create a more positive atmosphere for anybody inside the library,” Clarke said.

Clarke said the decision to hire an outreach worker for the library and downtown was unanimously approved by council, and $73,000 was authorized to support the position.

There isn’t a timeline yet on when the worker will start. The hiring process is anticipated to begin immediately.

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