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Dangerously low temperatures threaten those experiencing homelessness

Posted at 10:26 AM, Jan 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-02 16:18:23-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Saturday, Omaha was hit by its first winter storm of the year, putting the city's homeless population at risk of severe injury or even death. Volunteers and shelters did what they could to help.

Gary Hughes, hospitality director for Open Door Mission, said before coming to the mission many years ago, he experienced bitterly cold days like Sunday.

“You’re out there in the elements and you don’t have that cover, you don’t have the blanket, you don’t have a roof over your head," said Hughes. "You don’t know where your next meal is coming from. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to serve.”

According to the National Weather Service with wind chills around -25 degrees, frostbite can take just 15 minutes to set in. Omaha was expecting -15 to -30 degree wind chills on Sunday night.

Hypothermia, the most common winter weather killer, can occur even in 30 to 50-degree weather.

As the cold hit the metro, many people did find shelter at Siena Francis House.

“We have 450 beds in the emergency shelter, and last night we were over 400," said Tim Sully, development director at Siena Francis House. "So we’re not at capacity, but we’re approaching capacity.”

Sully said he was are happy to see the rooms being filled and people getting out of the cold.

“We want to make sure people can have a safe place to be out of the cold, something to eat, and if they do need to venture out, they will have the resources like coats and gloves and hats and boots and the proper attire," Sully said.

The Open Door Mission was doing what it could to keep people warm, fed, and cared for.

“I want them to know that, just because of the weather, we’re still going to feed everybody that comes into the mission," Hughes said.

Both shelters say there's room for more, and when there’s not, they’ll find a place for people to go.

“We’re going to try everything in our power to make sure they don’t have to sleep in the elements," Hughes said.

Both shelters are asking for cold-weather items to hand out.

You can find a way to donate to Siena Francis house here.

Open Door Mission says it is in urgent need of plus size and extra large items for men. Find out how to donate here. You can also drop off items at the Garland Thompson Men's Shelter at 2705 N 20th St E, Omaha, NE 68110.

The shelters say if you see someone experiencing homelessness that you are worried about, to call them or call 911.

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