A new study shows more than 1,200 people are homeless in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, a six-percent rise since January. Erin Porterfield, with the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless, says with cold weather coming, homeless people obviously need a place to stay, but they also need much more.
Porterfield says, "Things like disability assistance, general assistance, health care, substance abuse recovery assistance — these are things that are problematic when people enter homelessness and they need that kind of help once they exit." She says homeless advocates are working on the problem and are planning to open a temporary day shelter in the area later this fall.
With the challenges facing the nation’s financial markets, Porterfield says it’ll take a lot of effort to keep the homeless numbers from growing even further. She says: "Poverty is a very difficult thing to solve comprehensively and quickly. The health of our economy right now does send out an alarm that says ‘warning, warning,’ how can we prevent more homelessness?"
Porterfield says the study shows more than 100 metro-area veterans are homeless but she believes that number is larger. She says it’s very difficult for people to disclose their veteran status when they’re in emergency shelter situations. One of the region’s largest homeless shelters is seeing a big uptick in the number of people it’s feeding.
The Open Door Mission in Omaha used to feed 1,100 people a day a year ago. Last week, it hit a single-day record of 1,933 meals.