City officials, staff members clear out homeless tents around Omaha shelter

But those in the camps claim there are fewer problems outside than inside.
Homeless camps are cleared outside the downtown shelter.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 4:50 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Staff at an Omaha shelter cleared out the nearby homeless camps. They say it’s for the safety of the residents and neighborhood.

But those in the camps claim there are fewer problems outside than inside. Shelter officials say they did everything they could to find other options for those in the camps.

For months, those who run the downtown homeless shelter have been working with the city to figure out how to keep people from living in tents and campsites outside.

That practice ended at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Omaha police waited nearby as Siena Francis House staff and city crews removed some of the belongings no longer wanted by the men and women who were camping and living along the fenceline and sidewalk, from mattresses to bicycles.

Homeless shelter officials say it’s not safe to have folks sleeping outside and it’s not fair to the neighbors around the shelter. The outreach team says they explained to those in the homeless campsites that beds are available inside the shelter but that a number of individuals aren’t interested.

“They told us we had to move because it’s their property and they don’t want anyone outside. There’s a lot of people in there who yell, screaming at night while you’re trying to sleep. You can’t sleep. It’s so hot in there and then they have rules. You have to be in your bunk by 9 p.m. You can’t go back outside after that to smoke a cigarette or anything,” said Thomas.

“We’re not sure yet,” said Tonya.

Staff at an Omaha shelter clear out the nearby homeless camps. They say it’s for the safety of the residents and neighborhood.

Tonya says she’s been camping outside the shelter for at least two months because it’s less strict than being inside.

“They run the place like a jail,” said Tonya.

“We had 180 men’s shelter beds available last night and approximately 25 women’s shelter beds so there’s definitely room to accommodate those who are staying in the tents,” said Linda Twomey.

Linda Twomey, the executive director of Siena Francis House says the outside encampments have been growing all summer and that there have violent and aggressive incidents that concern them.

“We understand that not everyone wants to come into the shelter, but we have to balance the safety of the 500 people that we serve daily at the Siena Francis House,” said Twomey.

For the majority of homeless who were in the camps, they plan to remain on the street.

Siena Francis officials say its core mission is to provide shelter for those in need so they urged campers to stay inside and take advantage of the facilities and meals.

They also provided information to them regarding other shelters with beds available.