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Shelters make hard decisions while facing staffing shortages during busiest time

Siena Francis house had to close their dock
Posted at 5:54 AM, Jan 24, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — During the bitter cold, many stay inside to keep warm, but not everyone has the ability to do so. Those who are experiencing homelessness turn to shelters to escape the extremely low temperatures.

Siena Francis House, one of those shelters, makes it their mission to never turn anyone away, especially in these weather conditions. During these times, they're at their busiest. The team is an important piece of the puzzle that makes it so they can accommodate everyone.

"This is a reason why we have staffing level we do. To make sure all our services continue and to make sure nothing in our control gets interrupted because this is the time of year we have the most need," Chris Knauf, Chief Development Officer at Siena Francis House said.

But, lately, like many other industries, they've been facing staffing shortages. The team is already not that big, but with the rapidly spreading omicron variant of covid-19, some of the staff have fallen sick.

"Any time an organization like our that is really dependent on those additional hands and the staff we have and you have between 12-13 percent of your workforce out that puts a strain on operations," Knauf said.

They try and make do. Knauf says in times like these they shift workers around, most importantly to their client-facing positions. They try and ensure the shelter continues to run. But, recently they had to make some difficult changes because there just weren't enough people.

Siena Francis House temporarily closed down a vital part of their operation: the dock, which is where they intake all of their donations.

"The dock is, in a lot of ways, it makes this place run. That’s where people bring in donations of food, clothing, blankets, linens, toiletries, all the things we need to serve our guests and our clients," Knauf said. "When that is down we hate having to turn the generosity of others away."

Knauf says community partnerships with organizations and businesses like churches and restaurants have helped them continue to provide shelter, warmth and food for those in need.