Omaha shelters hosts warming centers, house vulnerable community members amid bitter cold

WOWT 6 News 10 p.m. Sunday newscast
Published: Jan. 2, 2022 at 12:29 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Many people are fortunate to be in the comfort of their own homes when it’s cold outside, but not everyone has that luxury.

One local facility is welcoming people inside their building to keep warm. The Siena Francis House opened up its warming center because of the bitter cold temperatures outside over the weekend.

“We’ve been in below zero, and that is dangerous weather of course,” says Tim Sully, the development director at Siena Francis House.

In the warming center, those who are struggling with and overcoming homelessness get the chance to relax in a heated space while enjoying coffee and food. This is just the second this year they’ve offered this resource to the public.

“We opened a couple days ago. We’ve had a couple people stop in to warm up and it’s great to be able to offer this service to people who need on those times they need, so yeah, we’re really grateful for this community for allowing all of our services,” said Tim Sully, Siena Francis House.

The warming center remained open on Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Going into Sunday, the number of people using the emergency shelter grew.

“Overnight, so from the previous night in our emergency shelter, we had a little over 400 stay here, 404, and then last night the emergency shelter was up to 415, so there was certainly an increase in the emergency shelter numbers.”

Sully tells 6 News they want the community to know they’re here for them, and that their staff, many of which have faced homelessness themselves, truly care about those who need extra support or help at any time of the year.

“It’s important for the people who utilize our services, its important for the Siena Francis house to be able to provide these services and its important to the very generous people in this community who are funding the Siena Francis House who are allowing us the privilege of providing our services, so we’re grateful for the opportunity and we know the people that use our services are grateful as well.”

With temperatures remaining in the single digits Sunday night with negative wind chills, the shelter is prepared for even more community members to join the shelter. They don’t expect to reach their 450-person capacity limit, but even if they did, Sully says there’s always a plan.

“Let’s say we were to reach capacity, we would certainly work with the other shelter providers in town, which we do all of the time to ensure anybody who stops by Siena Francis house is going to be safely house, going to have something to eat and have appropriate clothes to wear.”

Sully also says the Siena Francis House is always accepting donations of winter clothing and other items, and are always looking to welcome new volunteers to help them serve daily meals. You can learn where to donate and how to sign-up to volunteer on their website.

The Open Door Mission tells 6 News they’re also supporting vulnerable community members during the bitter cold temperatures - handing out blankets, hats, gloves and other winter gear at both the men’s shelter and the Lydia House.

Candace Gregory, President and CEO of the Mission, says “no one is being turned away in extreme temperatures.”

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