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Originally Published: February 15, 2021

‘Dire, critical situations’: Omaha neighbors, advocates help families stay warm in bitter cold.

Freezing temperatures bring increased calls for assistance, while outreach targets those without heat or shelter.

Neighbors across Omaha are offering a warm hand in the cold, making sure they have either a place to stay or the help they need.

It was a busy Monday afternoon for the chimneys dotting homes along South 18th Street in South Omaha. Families will continue to rely on their heat to weather the brutal cold these next few days.

“The most dire and critical situations that one can encounter, right?” Community activist Ben Salazar said. “Just survival.”

Salazar, who’s also a local businessman and publisher, said he found out one of his own employees encountered major problems this weekend that could jeopardize her family’s health.

“I was talking to her and then she mentioned that the furnace in the house had gone out the night before,” Salazar said. “She’s got a houseful of kids. She’s a single mom, she works two jobs.”

Salazar said knew he couldn’t leave her and her kids exposed and vulnerable.

“Two or three of my friends and colleagues said that they would chip in to pay for a room, couple nights at a motel,” he said.

Meanwhile, increased calls to the United Way of the Midlands highlighted some of the consequences of the dangerous cold.

Josh Quinn, director of the organization’s 2-1-1 helpline, said on top of connecting callers to shelter resources, families also said they’re worrying about their next meal.

“We’re getting quite a few calls for food as well, which we can’t always relate to the cold weather, but I think people are thinking about it a lot more with these deeply frigid temperatures,” Quinn said.

Despite the bitter cold, advocates from Together Inc. checked on those neighbors who’ve spent hours, if not days, already in the elements.

“People tend to go to places, sometimes under bridges and different crevices, different places where they can just get out of the wind,” outreach specialist Cynthia Goslin said.

Goslin said she would head out to calls from different neighborhoods, concerned the men or women without shelter would perish in Monday’s conditions.

Goslin said she always carries both hand and feet warmers in her pockets. As she builds rapport with those struggling, she said she will also let them know there are warming centers open to them.

“Just having that conversation, building that relationship, building that trust,” she said. “If you see somebody, stop. Stop and see what’s going on, try to help them.”

The Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless said people can seek warmth in the following locations this winter:

Siena Francis House- 1702 Nicholas Street (North Entrance Security Gate)

  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Open when forecast is 20 degrees or below; or pursuant to a winter storm watch/warning
  • Phone: 402-341-1821, ext. 3721 (or * for info line)
  • Eligibility: Those not checked into emergency shelter/housing program
  • Capacity: 41 individuals
  • Food: Lunch daily between 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
  • Transportation: Two blocks from MAT bus stops. Limited options for those with transportation barriers

Generation Diamond- 4825 S. 25th St., Omaha NE 68107

  • Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Phone: 402-546-9978
  • Eligibility: Anyone who needs a warm place to be during open hours
  • Capacity: 10-15 people
  • Food: Meals are available daily
  • Transportation: One block west of the 24th Street (red) line

Salvation Army – Omaha North Corps, 2424 Pratt Street, Omaha, NE 68111

  • Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Phone: 402-451-4048

Salvation Army – Omaha Citadel Corps, 3738 Cuming St., Omaha, NE 68131

  • Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m.
  • Phone: 402-553-5694

Salvation Army – Omaha Kroc Center, 2825 Y Street, Omaha, NE 68107

  • Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Phone: 402-905-3500

Council Bluffs New Vision, 3415 W. Broadway, Council Bluffs (Next to Octapharma Plasma)

  • Time: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Phone: 712-308-3441
  • Eligibility: Those in need of hot meals, showers, winter clothing, services and a warm place

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