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Homeless shelters filling up due to cold weather

“It’s basically life or death"
Posted at 10:26 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 11:26:46-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It’s a brutal stretch of cold weather in Omaha and it’s leading to plenty of those experiencing homelessness to head to the Siena Francis House, downtown.

“We do understand of course, that the numbers are going up and they have been going up,” said Development Director Tim Sully.

Sully said they’ve added dozens of people in the coming days but thanks to their new building that was completed just over a year ago, they still have room for more.

He said it would be much harder to deal with this weather without it.

“It’s so nice to have it because it’s safe, secure, warm and spacious where people can not only be here but be able to spread out and social distance,” said Sully.

Down the road in South Omaha, the much smaller Stephen Center is near capacity, although they opened up a few extra beds.

But they’re not kicking anybody to the street.

“Our door is definitely open for them to warm up or find, we’re not going to turn anybody away. We will definitely find a solution best fit for them,” said Stephen Center employee, Ben Marquart.

Marquart works with guest services and said they can’t take in some people because they’re a dry shelter — meaning guests must be sober — but they’ll look to find a place for people who show up, hoping to escape the cold.

“We find ourselves directing a lot of people to other resources or other, certain organizations that are either putting people up in hotel rooms or we’re calling other shelters,” said Marquart.

While the influx of people can be a challenge for both shelters, days and weeks like we’re experiencing in the Omaha area, show just how important these places can be.

“It’s basically life or death if they don’t find a roof over their head, a warm spot,” said Marquart.

Both shelters mention they can use donations of winter related items, especially blue jeans.