Making a difference in Omaha, Nebraska

Posted: November 4, 2010 in homelessness
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Over the past weeks I’ve been writing about my frustrations with programs that were intended to help the homeless communities but seemed to fall short of their goals.
I think we can all agree that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to improve assistance to the homeless community but at the same time there are many who are doing some great work to help the homeless in the community.
In the weeks to come I will be posting profiles of organizations who have devoted their time and talents to help the homeless in our community.

The Stephen Center

The Emergency Shelter at the Stephen Center works with homeless men, women and children. The program has operated over capacity for the past several years.

As the area’s only dry shelter, sobriety and a drug-free environment are the hallmarks of this program. The shelter is open on an emergency basis from a few nights to two weeks or longer depending upon the situation. The Emergency Shelter provides a gateway to a variety of supportive services including the opportunity to enroll in the Stephen Center HERO Substance Abuse Treatment Program or Transitional Living opportunities.

The Stephen Center’s Emergency Shelter houses as many as 20-25 children and their mothers at any one time as well as up to 40 single men and 20 single women. Each person is treated with dignity and respect as Stephen Center staff and volunteers work with each person individually to develop and implement a plan for success in emerging from homelessness and regaining a healthy and happy life. Meals are served seven days a week to those staying at the Stephen Center. The Stephen Center is staffed 24 hours a day including the overnight hours when volunteers are typically in charge.

Below is one of the many success stories from someone with firsthand experience of being helped by The Stephen Center:

The Stephen Center Helped Me

Often times a person faces a situation he/she never fathomed they would have to face. About a month ago, I was put into one of those situations.

I had been living in a house in West Omaha and paying dearly for it, month after month for five years. One year into the lease, I was diagnosed with a fatal disease. I continued to work while being treated with chemo and radiation.

One and one half years later, I chose to leave the company where I was working. I then applied for unemployment for the first time in my life. I received unemployment for 13 weeks while I was searching for a new job, all to no avail. The treatments and medicine that I was taking was altering my ability to perform as well as I had in the past.

The failing economy also negatively affected what I had been able to save. I had to withdraw funds from my insurance savings to make the rent payments. I kept thinking that things would get better, but they didn’t. I found myself in a motel with two days and nights to find a new place to live. I made as many calls as possible to the Veteran’s Administration.

I was fortunate to receive a call back from Mike Johnson, a counselor for the homeless with the VA. He suggested that I call the Stephen Center and ask for Maggie. He told me that he would also call her to let her know my situation. What a blessing. Maggie had me come to the Stephen Center for an intake session. I did this and became a resident of the Center.

I quickly discovered that the Stephen Center was a “special place” with rules that positively framed me and many others. Most of the residents pitch in to keep their personal and common areas clean. The residents also gain so much by sharing valuable information with one another. Friendships are born here.

After receiving support and help from the staff, I have now moved into an apartment of my own. Thank you to the staff and friends that I’ve made at Stephen Center. I appreciate the network that Stephen Center has made with the VA, city agencies and state agencies to create health, hope and promise for those of us that are unhealthy, despairing and doubting.

Thanks to the many generous donors who provide food and clothing to us.

God Bless!

To read more of The Stephen Center’s success stories click here.

To view other videos click here.

The Talmud teaches that “to save one life is to save the whole world” I pray that more and more people will step up and help those in the homeless community. The ones who struggle on the streets of our cities are someone’s mother, father, sister, or brother. And yes, we are our brother’s keeper.

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