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Siena Francis House development breaks ground with the goal to combat homelessness

Posted at 7:14 AM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 08:27:21-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A project that has been in the making since 2018 broke ground Tuesday as part of Omaha's affordable housing initiative.

"The cottages by Siena Francis House development is an important step to create opportunities to make the transition from homeless to housing, jobless to employment, and successful futures possible," Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said.

The Siena Francis House cottages will provide 50 tiny homes, each around 275 square feet for people struggling to afford housing.

Each cottage will include a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living area and covered porch.

The micro-community will also provide residents with a secure neighborhood and other amenities such as a community center and laundry room.

"Last year the Siena Francis House served nearly 3,000 individuals in our programs. We had the highest nights of shelter that we have ever served in the almost 50 years of this organization. So we know that there's a need for these 50 houses. We know that we will fill them up immediately," said Linda Twomey, Executive Director of the Siena Francis House.

A total of about $9.1 million in state and federal tax credits will support the creation of the program.

The Siena Francis House says none of this is possible without the help of the city and several other partners.

One of those partners is Metro Community College (MCC) and its students.

"Seven of the tiny homes that are being built are being built by students at Metro Community College," President of Arch Icon Darin Smith said .

"It's really important for the students knowing that these tiny homes aren't just going to sit there in the classroom. They're actually going to go to these people and it is actually beneficial for them. It's really cool how projects like this help the community a lot," MCC Student Angel Magana said.

Stohert had a couple of other announcements to make regarding the city's efforts to end homelessness.

"We will add and we will fund this year a new position in the mayor's office to work exclusively on a comprehensive strategy to help us reach our important goal, and that's to end homelessness. We will also use ARPA funds to make a $60 million investment in affordable housing," Stothert said.

Bobby Ray will be one of the many beneficiaries of the project.

Ray was homeless and living in the shelter before being able to get an apartment at the Siena Francis House.

"You know, you gotta want it, man, to move up and get out of the shelter. I've been over at the Siena Francis Apartments for a year and four months," Ray said.

Now he's ready to make the move to the cottages.

"Yeah, I'm gonna go for it. Going to put my bid in for one, yup," Ray said.

The tiny homes are new to Nebraska but have been modeled after similar developments nationwide. Siena Francis House says this produced sustainable results towards ending the cycle of chronic homelessness.

The project is expected to be completed in March of 2023.

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