Fargo's Downtown Library calls for assistance in helping homeless community

Photo by: WDAY Radio Staff
Photo by: WDAY Radio Staff

(Fargo, ND) -- Fargo's Downtown Library is calling on local decision-makers to provide resources to help the homeless population that often visit their facility.

The Downtown Fargo Public Library is less than two blocks away from the Downtown Engagement Center, a facility intended to providing medical assistance, immediate mental health services, and access to housing programs to anyone who needs it. Due to the two building's proximity, and the public accessibility of the downtown library, several people often spend their days around and inside the facility. The library sees homeless and mentally ill people every day, according to building officials.

Timothy Dirks, The Library Director for the City of Fargo, says the gatherings have raised concerns among library-goers and other members of the community, However, he says urban libraries across the country have been facing the challenge of accommodating everyone, including the homeless, without barring specific people from entering their doors. 

"Regardless of your background, if you are going to come in and behave yourself, read a book, and stay awake, then that is not an issue," said Dirks. "[Sometimes] they have crises off-site with another individual, and they bring their problems with them. They bring the grudges out there if they meet up here, and you mix alcohol with that and that can be volatile."

Despite the challenges and potential issues, Dirks says he wants to caution against simply removing the homeless population from the property. He wants the focus on solutions to remain on providing resources to disadvantaged communities without "vilifying" those individuals.  

"I'm being careful because I want to not to vilify folks but explaining the situation that we are in. We have a challenge of dealing with vulnerable people dealing with very difficult things in their lives...It's not so much to vilify them, but [the library] needs the resources to assist them."

Original Air Date: 
Friday, January 19, 2024