The difference between a hand up and a hand out can make a world of difference for those struggling to make it in the world. The folks at Omaha's Open Door Mission understand that and have created a number of programs to help the homeless find their way.
There are a number of cliches surrounding homelessness; sleeping under a bridge or riding the rails are probably the best known. But there is another cliche, that of the homeless shelter providing hot meals and a cot. The people who believe that one have never seen the Open Door Mission.
The latest piece of the $32 million capital improvement project is officially open. The Garland Thompson Men's Center provides shelter, but there are also a variety of programs designed to help the homeless re-establish themselves.
"I took quite a slide when I tumbled down the spiral, but nonetheless I'm in the same place as the felon out there who has done these horrendous things," says Grant Crawford, who has experienced a lot of ups and downs in his life. He's also spent a lot of time in shelters but says the Open Door Mission is different.
What makes it better than many shelters are the programs designed to help the homeless help themselves. "I think there is a lot of hope here and if people avail themselves to what is offered it is more than sufficient for what you would need to get your life going again and to maintain it."
The programs include substance abuse treatment but there are also programs designed to practice interview skills and to make up for missed educational opportunities.
The brick and mortar are needed to shelter homeless men, women and children, but the programs are the key to helping them break the cycle of poverty.
The Open Door Mission has also started a kind of aftercare that Grant says he plans to take advantage of. Once he graduates and gets a job, he will rent a place at the mission. That way, he says, he won't end up living next to any temptation and will be less likely to backslide.