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8 social workers wanted downtown

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There could be up to eight social workers working with the homeless in downtown Winnipeg if a local business improvement zone group has its way.

As reported in Tuesday's Free Press, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ announced at its annual meeting Tuesday it plans to hire two full-time social workers in 2013 to help homeless people receive additional treatment, seek help for mental-health issues and find housing. The new program would augment the existing police cadet and downtown BIZ patrol programs aimed at curbing public drunkenness in the downtown.

But executive director Stefano Grande said in an interview after the meeting that two social workers are just a start. The goal is to have six to eight social workers working full time on the new Community Homeless Assist Team.

"Hopefully within the next two or three years," he added.

To achieve that goal, Grande said the BIZ will need to acquire additional funding from outside sources -- likely government or foundation programs -- to complement the money it raises through its own business levy on its members. He said it would need roughly $40,000 to $45,000 for each new worker.

"We have funding applications in just everywhere," he said.

The homeless initiative is one of several new programs the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ will launch in 2013. Grande said it also plans to hire two new loss-prevention officers to work with downtown parkade operators and customers on reducing the number of vehicle break-ins in the parkades.

A pilot project this year at one downtown parkade (he wouldn't say which one) reduced the number of break-ins by more than half, he said. So now BIZ officials want to extend the initiative to include all downtown parkades.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2012 B2

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