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Children's reading group raises concerns about homeless people seeking shelter at library

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In the face of a lack of affordable housing, the Alliston library serves as a lifeline for individuals grappling with homelessness during extreme weather, but the situation has a children's reading group considering moving elsewhere.

Carolyn Milne operates the Story Dogs of New Tecumseth, a reading program for children five to 13.

Milne said she's concerned about the number of homeless individuals using the library and how some behave.

"We're finding that here in the Alliston library, the homeless people that are being allowed to use this unregulated homeless shelter have behaviours that are not suitable for exposure to five and six-year-olds," she explained.

Milne is threatening to pull her program from the library while other groups underline its importance.

"We believe it's an excellent opportunity, just as other communities, to utilize libraries as safe spaces. Many other communities have actually increased their services and programs and accommodated services," said Candace Gordon with SHIFT (Support and Hope for Individuals and Families Today).

SHIFT reports nearly 800 visits last month and handed out about 500 meals, and those numbers are only increasing.

In response to the concerns at the library, the facility's CEO said several measures had been implemented to maintain a safe and welcoming environment, including better exterior lighting and staff reinforcing the Patron Code of Conduct.

Addressing issues, such as inappropriate language used inside the branch, the library acknowledged occasional instances but noted it isn't limited to those experiencing homelessness.

The CEO also said that to continue to foster a secure and inclusive environment for all patrons, the library plans to undertake a reorganization of its collections, moving adult materials downstairs and child and youth materials upstairs.

Further improvements, including security cameras, are planned for the library that are expected to be revealed at the next meeting.

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