Arlington library provides assistance for unhoused individuals


Jessica Lutka

Jessica Diaz, library services manager at the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library in Arlington, standing before a row of books.

Jessica Lutka, Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas – Public libraries often serve as a place of respite for unhoused individuals. They also provide a space for people to get access to resources they may have trouble getting otherwise.

Jessica Diaz, library services manager at the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library in Arlington, knows this well. In that position, she heads the library’s homeless support services. She has been in library services for more than 20 years but at the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library for three.

She works with different organizations to coordinate resources that they can offer to the unhoused population that comes into the library. She said it’s important to approach all individuals as humans, whether that’s people dealing with homelessness or those who may not be familiar with sharing a space with them.

She said that her team as well as the organizations they work with have recently started a text line that unhoused individuals can use to receive information about cold weather shelter. She said she encourages everyone to get the information even if they don’t need it as they can share it with someone who might.

She said they have even seen success stories like that of man she called Mr. Scott, who got out of his unhoused situation. Yet he continued to provide information to others to help ensure that the team at the library was giving the best resources for each individual.

She said it can be difficult to approach certain situations where suggesting resources that might be beneficial acknowledge issues individuals may not have known they had, such as mental health issues. Even so, she said her team makes it a point to ensure that people know those resources are available if needed.

“The library’s role is to provide resources and information services and point people to where people can get the information if it’s not within the library walls,” Diaz said. “It really is up to each individual to reach out and take advantage of those.”

She said it’s not a librarian’s job to assume the best resource for someone but to lead them to their options and assume they’re intelligent enough to make their own decisions on what is best for them.

Listen to the interview with Diaz.