Omaha-area homeless shelters turn to hotels amid pandemic

Two local hotels are being used to house homeless as cold weather threatens to pack shelters
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 8:53 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s all hands on deck this winter to keep Omaha-metro’s homeless safe amid the pandemic.

Two local hotels are being used to temporarily shelter those in need as the cold weather forces people off the streets.

The City of Omaha is using COVID grants to pay for a portion of the $3 to $4 million project with local non-profits and the philanthropic community stepping up with the rest.

“I think this year everyone really felt the pressure to bring people in and keep them safe at the same time,” said Tina Murray, Director of Crisis Engagement, Together Inc. noting the hotels are offering an alternative to piling people in; a saving grace at the Open Door Mission.

“With the hotel, instead of getting more people into a smaller area we’re able to alleviate and control that area so that all the other precautions that we’re doing to help keep safe are able to be effective,” said Steve Frazee, Senior Program Director, Open Door Mission.

The two hotels are housing more than a hundred people from a handful of shelters.

“You know we’ve taken some people from some of the shelters that are higher risk, so they’re able to go into a room by themselves and isolate,” said Murray, who’s heading up the project on the ground. “Then we have some people that are in situations where they may have service animals and things like that,” said Murray, noting some guests just recently found themselves without a home.

“People that have either faced eviction or apartment fires, some things like that, a place to go so they can bounce back out without having to get into the shelter with COVID-19,” said Murray.

Guests must follow COVID precautions and are assigned a case manager to help get them back on their feet.

“As long as you’ve signed the participant agreement, are following the rules, doing the case the management, you’re welcome to stay,” said Murray.

The project is funded through April with the goal of preparing people to step out on their own.

“By the time that this ends, hopefully by working with the case manager that’s assigned to them, they’ll be able to take that next step into independence,” said Frazee.

For safety and privacy reasons the hotels and their locations are not being disclosed.

The shelters are recommending who gets housed at the hotels and are making sure they have the temperament and behavioral background to manage their stay.

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