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Helping homeless people in Omaha stay safe from bitter cold

Challenges being brought on by the pandemic
Posted at 10:26 AM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 11:31:50-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The cold streak could cause problems for anyone, especially those in need.

Hundreds of people in Omaha are living in poverty, many without food or shelter.

As temperatures in the Midwest plunge into the negatives this week, homeless shelters across the metro area are scrambling to keep people warm.

While they bring people indoors to safety, they are also confronted with the pandemicsomething equally as dangerous.

With dangerously bitter temperatures across the Midwest, Open Door Mission President/CEO Candace Gregory and volunteers are making sure those in need find warmth.

"Right now, during this cold snap, it means hot chocolate, hot coffee, hot food, more blankets on your bunk bed,” said Gregory.

And to help bring people indoors, an Open Door Mission van shuttles people from downtown.

“Sometimes you have to walk all night when it gets really cold just to stay warm," said Alex Kuhl, who once roamed the streets of Omaha, sleeping in a tent in blistering cold temperatures.

Kuhl has seen just how brutal mother nature can be.

"I've lost some friends last year due to the exposure of elements. It's real sad just to…someone’s there one day and then they are not…they froze in a park," said Kuhl.

Kuhl suffered severe frostbite last year where he nearly lost all of his toes. He said that was a turning point in his struggle with alcohol, adding he knew he needed help and found his way to Open Door Mission.

"They helped me get through a tough winter. They helped me get some clothing and much-needed services. Get my life back on track, really," said Kuhl.

The Open Door Mission is helping hundreds of people just like Kuhl, especially in these colder monthsbut the frigid temperatures are not the only threat the shelter is facing this year.

COVID-19 has forced the shelter to operate at 50%leaving less room for those needing shelter from the cold.

Due to the pandemic, things at Open Door Mission have simply been more labor-intensive.

For example, they placed tents on top of beds over beds to prevent the spread.

Now that winter is here and temperatures have dropped, they are making sure that everyone who leaves their doors has hats, mittens and even hand warmers.

They are prepared for the influx of people in need of a warm bed, so they have blankets, mats and towels for those in need.

Gregory said it's been a challenge to navigate both these threats, it couldn't be done without the support from the surrounding area.

"We'd love to put winter clothes, blankets and of course space heaters into the hands of people that are truly in need in our community that are experiencing homelessness or living in poverty," said Gregory.

Click here if you'd like to donate time or resources to Open Door Mission and the people it serves.

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