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Construction begins on new shelter for Omaha homeless people

November 19, 2018

In this Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, photo a bulldozer moves gravel at the site of a future new shelter at Siena-Francis House, in Omaha, Neb. (Christopher Burbach/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Foundation work is beginning on a new shelter that Omaha’s homeless people need “desperately,” an official said.

Siena-Francis House’s new building is being erected on the site of a former salvage yard in north downtown Omaha. It will have beds for 350 men and up to 100 women, replacing what officials described as a worn-out, cramped shelter space that doesn’t meet the community’s needs.

“It will allow us to give every person seeking shelter a bed to sleep in, and not a mattress on the floor or a chair on the coldest days,” shelter executive director Linda Twomey told the Omaha World-Herald .

The new shelter will not increase Siena-Francis’ overall space, she said, but it will allow the shelter to serve people better. It will have a larger dining room area, more common space for people waiting for case management and other services, and better space for those services.

“We hope to be in the building by December of 2019,” Twomey said. “We’re so excited. It’s so desperately needed.” Social services experts have estimated there are around 2,000 homeless people in Omaha every day.

The philanthropic organization Heritage Services is leading an $18.9 million campaign to improve programming and security and provide a better shelter. The city of Omaha is contributing $2.5 million.

The Siena-Francis building housing the women’s shelter will be demolished within a couple of years, Twomey said.

Another building that houses the men’s shelter and other services is worn out from operating over capacity since being built in 2003, but officials will look at renovating it after the new shelter goes into use, she said.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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