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'People want houses, they want green space': The Cottages by Siena Francis House

Posted at 11:20 AM, Oct 20, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Cottages is a new neighborhood development with 50 houses created by the Siena Francis House. The homes will soon be available to those who have experienced chronic homelessness and have a disability. Someone who fits that criteria is Keith Neil.

"Well I've lost a job I had a number of years ago, got evicted from my apartment, I was on the streets for a while — I didn't know of some of the services that were offered in town. I had no idea," said Neil.

Eventually, he discovered the Siena Francis House and moved into the organization's apartment complex around three years ago.

"Now these homes are being built and I have the chance to be one of the first residents, I guess you could call it, and I'm looking forward to it," he said.

Residents will come from the same apartments Neil was in and from a priority list of individuals experiencing homelessness who are waiting for housing. They'll each pay 30% of their income towards rent and the rest will be covered by rental subsidies. Those who live there already have a case manager who works on each of their individual needs, including employment.

"People want houses, they want green space, they want to have a space to have their dog, they want to have a space to grill," said Linda Twomey the executive director of the Siena Francis House.

And at 64 years old, Keith is looking forward to having a little more freedom, security and "a sense of ownership, you know, because an apartment, like, it's never going to be yours."

The average house in the neighborhood is 250 square feet and costs $57,000 each to develop. The entire project cost $8.7 million.

"Winter is coming. It's our mission to really move people out of homelessness and if we can prevent someone from being outside or not having a place to be in the winter," said Twomey.

Siena Francis has already started the leasing process for more than 15 residents with the goal of having all homes filled by the end of the year.

On Monday, there will be an official ribbon cutting. Nov. 1 is when the first few residents, like Neil, can begin moving in.

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