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What a new social worker might mean for downtown Duluth

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DULUTH, MN — On Monday night, Duluth City Council approve a new social worker position through the Greater Downtown Council.

The vote allocates $300,000 in federal covid relief money to help fund the position for the next three years.

That money will go toward a $65,000 salary for the worker, as well as resources for that individual.

GDC is a nonprofit whose goal is to help create a “clean, safe and vibrant Downtown Duluth.”

President Kristi Stokes said they want someone on hand who can respond to issues like homelessness, addiction, and mental health crises in the downtown area.

“As it relates to individuals, it would be building stronger relationships with them, someone who can be dedicated specifically to the downtown 40 hours a week,” said Stokes.

The vote passed 7-2, but Joel Sipress was one of the councilors who voted against the position.

He believes the money could go a lot further in the right hands.

Part of his reasoning is GDC’s partnership with Block by Block, a national organization that helps make cleaner and safer downtown areas across the country.

Sipress supports the organization and what they stand for, but believes the money would be better spent on a strictly local entity.

“We have a lot of people in our community organizations that that have a lot of experience locally working on issues of homelessness and I think we lost the opportunity to have a close partnership with one of those organizations,” he said.

For Stokes, however, this isn’t the end goal.

She believes there’s always more work to be done.

“This isn’t the silver bullet that’s going to solve all of our issues, this is just one tool in the toolbox,” she said.

The GDC is currently in the hiring process for the social work position and hopes to have the role filled within the next month.

Quinn Gorham

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