Recent fires, lack of shelter raising concern for Omaha’s homeless

Neighbors and community members are raising concerns over the safety of homeless people in the metro.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 5:26 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - There are many abandoned homes that are not secure and anyone can walk into to find shelter. That can be dangerous, and perhaps deadly.

Omaha Fire Department officials believe two homeless people had been moving in and out of the home for a long time.

Gage Bothwell lives close to the Siena Francis House, and next door to an abandoned home -- a combination he says has not been a good thing.

“I moved in July of last year and within two weeks of me moving, the first house fire happened, and then a week after that a couple more happened, and I caught a couple of them in my backyard,” Bothwell said.

He believes the homeless need more mental healthcare and more programs. The Siena Francis House is doing all it can to find homes for the homeless. Right now, they’re building tiny homes, hoping to keep those in need off the street.

Detria Price works with the homeless. She says more needs to be done to keep homeless people safe.

“It’s not enough places for them to go, but it’s their mental health,” Price said. “The drugs are the biggest barrier because when they’re on drugs they don’t want shelter, but when they come off they need shelter.”

Omaha City Councilmember Juanita Johnson represents the second district, with Siena Francis in her area. Johnson says she plans to talk to the city’s recently-hired homeless services coordinator in the near future.

“I’m looking forward to engaging with her and that committee and coming up with something tangible that I can inform others in the community on what efforts will be taken in the days ahead to address this issue,” Johnson said.

Johnson says it will take everyone working together to provide the homeless with the services they need to be safe.