Omaha calls new work program for homeless, 'a success' in its first year

Published: Nov. 26, 2019 at 5:15 PM CST
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Duane Dominik is back to work, thanks in large part to the “A Way To Work” program, which made its debut in February.

"I was open to doing anything and since it was wintertime,” said Dominik, “It's hard finding any type of little jobs."

The program helps people who are struggling to get on their feet. For 90 days participants work for the City's Parks and Recreation Department.

"We were doing work for Hanscom Park, we were clipping flowers for the gardeners to layout in different parks and painting barrels,” said Dominik.

Participants are paid 10 dollars-an-hour for their work, but as Mayor Jean Stothert points out it's about more than the money.

“It’s not just the income they're making it's the services we provide for them,” said the mayor.

When participants aren't out working in the city parks they're working on their resume, interview prep, and other skills at the Salvation Army; the City's partner in the program.

So far 23 people have participated in the program, with 15 finding work through it.

When you stack that up against the more than 1400 homeless people in Omaha-Council Bluffs, the number may seem small but the plan is to keep growing.

“As we begin proving the success of this program we indeed will have members of our community who will say, 'yeah, I want to fund that specifically,’” said Major Adam Moore, the Salvation Army’s City Coordinator.

Currently, the City and Salvation Army are putting 50,000 dollars into the program annually. Money well spent according to the mayor, who says the program delves deeper than simply putting someone to work.

“It’s about housing, it's about social services they might need, so all of those things matter to get them out of the situation they are in."

The noted that the “A Way To Work” program is one example of her efforts to end homelessness in Omaha. She also pointed to the construction of a new Sienna Francis house shelter which is set to open in December.