Posts Tagged ‘Creighton University’

(Reprinted with permission from Siena/Francis House Fall Newsletter)

Creighton University Students get to know homeless over dinner

Every Monday evening, a group of Creighton University students spend time at the Siena/Francis House as part of a “Weekly Service Site” program, organized by Creighton’s Center for Service & Justice. However, the “service” that these students provide to guests at the shelter is much different than the normal volunteering at the Siena/Francis House. Instead of serving dinner to the shelter guests, (as most volunteers do) these students sit down and have dinner with them.

While sharing the meal that has been prepared that evening, the students engage in conversation with the homeless families and individuals. And, in doing so, these students’ own perception of homelessness – and of who is homeless – is often challenged.

Will Rutt, a Creighton student coordinator of this project states that, “By listening to the folks at dinner it really puts a human face on people who are homeless, and how similar I am to them. My time here at the Siena/Francis House has really highlighted that we share many of the same passions, interests and dreams. I’ve just been given more opportunities to fulfill those dreams.”

After dinner, the students head to a nearby conference room, where they spend another half hour listening to participants of the residential “Miracles” recovery program at the Siena/Francis House. The recovery program participants share with the students their own personal stories of how they ended up at the Siena/Francis House and what they are learning (and changing) about themselves while they are here. The recovery program participants end their talk by sharing with the students their hopes, dreams and plans for the future, after graduating from the recovery program.

Clearly, the Creighton students who come to the Siena/Francis House as part of this weekly visit are also very much changed, as a result of their experience. Another student coordinator, Elizabeth Samson states that, “After listening to people share their stories, I’m reminded that the negative stigma attached to persons suffering from addiction isn’t fair…or really who these people are. There is so much more to a person than that. These stories continue to prove to me that there is a true commonality between each of us, despite the experiences that we’ve had.”

This student-led partnership between Creighton University and the Siena/Francis House has been in existence for over ten years, and is popular with Creighton students. Each week there are students who show up who had never participated, prior, along with others who are “regulars”.

Regardless of how many times a Creighton student might stop by on any given Monday evening, there is no doubt that this experience is education that the students will not find inside a classroom. Student coordinator, Jennifer Lambrecht, shares that “Statistics and figures that quantify problems within our society are fine, but they don’t compare to the lessons I’ve learned from other persons’ life experiences. There is no question that I’ve grown as a person from my time spent at the Siena/Francis House.”

Exercising a policy of unconditional acceptance, the Siena/Francis House is dedicated to providing  services to the poor and homeless and refer to them as guests rather than clients or residents – giving them the respect and dignity they deserve.  All of the services  at Siena/Francis House are provided at no cost to its guests.

Founded in 1975, the Siena/Francis House is Nebraska’s largest shelter and is located in three facilities at 17th & Nicholas Streets in downtown Omaha, Nebraska. The Siena/Francis House provides emergency overnight shelter to men, women, and women with children. The Siena/Francis House also provides food to the homeless through its Meal Provider Program, clothing, and case management outreach services through its day services program. Additionally, the Siena/Francis House operates a residential addiction recovery program aptly named the “Miracles” Treatment Center.

Click here to find out how you can get involved in helping the Siena/Francis House.

Now that the winter weather is beginning to thaw, many of us tend to put the homeless community on the back burners of our mind and focus more on our own plans for the coming spring and summer months.

Unfortunately, for those living on the streets, their plans deal more with; “What do I eat? Where will I sleep tonight? Will I be safe?”

The following is a letter I received from Mike Saklar, Executive Director of The Siena/Francis House here in Omaha, Ne.

Hopefully it will encourage us to continue supporting Siena/Francis House and other ministries like this.

The recent, bitterly-cold weather can be especially dangerous for persons who become homeless.

Very early one recent morning, a freezing woman – Cecilia – arrived at the Siena/Francis House homeless shelter seeking help. It was nearly 3:00 a.m., and the temperature outside was near zero. On top of that, Cecilia had no cold-weather clothes on – not even a coat!

Siena/Francis House staff immediately brought Cecilia into our shelter and wrapped her in a blanket. We also gave her a cup of hot chocolate and put her in front of a heater to try to warm her up. Cecilia was so cold and shivering she could barely speak.

Fearing the worst, our women’s shelter manager examined Cecilia’s hands and feet. One of her feet had turned dark blue – a telling sign of frostbite. Cecilia also appeared to have frostbite on her fingers.

We immediately called 911 and Cecilia was taken to the Creighton Medical Center, where she was treated for her frostbite. Later – after receiving treatment at the hospital – Cecilia returned to the Siena/Francis House. We then were able to learn just how a coatless Cecilia ended up at our shelter that very early morning

The previous night, Cecilia had been out to a late dinner with her alcoholic and abusive husband. After dinner, and as they were driving home, the guy started to argue with Cecilia, and then to slap her around while in the car. At that point, the guy pulled the car over and ordered her out. Grabbing the coat out of Cecilia’s hands, he sped away.

Not knowing anyone in the area, and without a cell phone, Cecilia began walking. Cecilia tried to flag down passing motorists, but no one stopped. So, she kept on walking into the cold night. The temperature moved downward, and the toes on Cecilia’s feet started to freeze.

Cecilia walked for nearly three hours, until she finally stopped at a park to rest. It was nearly 3 a.m., snow was falling, and Cecilia could now barely move. Thankfully, a concerned cab driver saw the coatless Cecilia seated on a park bench. Sensing something wasn’t quite right, the cabbie stopped and found an extremely chilled woman in distress. This kind and compassionate man hurried Cecilia into his cab and brought her straight to the Siena/Francis House, free of charge.

While at our shelter, Cecilia has continued to recover from her frostbite. Our staff takes Cecilia to her medical appointments, and we make sure that she is healthy, safe and warm. We’ve also begun the process of helping Cecilia start to sort out her life.

Your gift is used to help women like Cecilia. Although how Cecilia arrived at the Siena/Francis House is unique, her story of abuse is not. Cecilia is just one of the many hundreds of battered women who seek safety and security at the Siena/Francis House each year. Some women flee their abuser after the first incident of violence. Others suffer through years of cruelty. Some of the women who seek shelter here have children, and many of those kids are very young.

Besides providing Cecilia with food to eat and warm clothes to wear, I’m grateful that we have the ability to provide her a safe, secure place to temporarily call home.

Will you please give a gift to the Siena/Francis House at this time? Your gift will help care for persons like Cecilia, and it is very much appreciated.
Please click here to make a secure, online donation! We truly need your help to provide food, shelter, and clothing to the hundreds of hungry and homeless persons who daily show up at our door.

Please know how grateful I am to be able to be part of an organization which exists to help persons like Cecilia. Please also know that I fully appreciate the fact that the Siena/Francis House is only able to provide our basic human services to our community’s homeless because of the generosity of so many kind and caring persons from our community, like you. Your support makes a real difference to the Siena/Francis House, and especially to the homeless people we serve.

God bless you for your sustained support, and I wish you well during these cold winter months.

With gratitude,
Mike Saklar
Executive Director
Siena/Francis House Homeless Shelter

P.S. We are in our busiest time of the year. Hundreds of cold and hungry individuals and families seek food, shelter, & safety every day. Please consider making a gift to the Siena/Francis House homeless shelter today. Our organization exists and operates almost entirely on charitable donations.

Gifts to Siena/Francis House are used to provide food, shelter, clothing, and care of the people who turn to us during their hour of need, and are greatly appreciated. All of our services are provided at no cost to our guests. All gifts to Siena/Francis House are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

For more information about Siena/Francis House or to include us in your estate planning, please contact Siena/Francis House Development Director, Tim Sully at (402) 341-1821.

Please click here for more information about The Siena/Francis House.

Project Homeless Connect Omaha provides our brothers and sisters living on the streets access to much-needed services in one location in one day.

While Creighton has been noted recently for joining the worldwide relief efforts in Haiti, bringing medical care to the victims of the earthquake, Project Homeless Connect Omaha is a visible manifestation of their ongoing commitment to those in need locally.

Led by the Rev. John P. Schlegel, who is president of Creighton University, The March 26th community-wide event fits with Creighton’s commitment to the city of Omaha and their Jesuit mission of service to others. Students, alumni, faculty and staff are actively engaged in the community and are dedicated to its betterment — whether assisting the homeless, providing health care or professional services or volunteering with local agencies.

Offices such as the Creighton Center for Service and Justice encourages students to participate in community service, to reflect on their experiences and to act to seek a more just world.

More than 1,000 volunteers have learned about homelessness in Omaha and, undoubtedly, have shared those experiences with others.

Volunteers have found that for many, the day is an eye-opening, life-changing experience. This is the desired outcome for students as well as those in the community when an event such as Project Homeless Connect Omaha is promoted.

Project Homeless Connect Omaha has surpassed the expectations of many. It has raised awareness of the homelessness in our community, and it has encouraged other communities to hold similar events.

Project Homeless Connect Omaha, while supported by the Creighton community, is not a “Creighton-only” event. The nursing programs of Metropolitan Community College, Iowa Western Community College and Nebraska Wesleyan University help provide health care. Bellevue University provides the Web site and the executive director of the event. The City of Omaha, Douglas County and the State of Nebraska provide medical tests and vaccinations.

Xenon International Academy has provided more than 600 haircuts. Subway, Sodexo, Godfather’s and retail meat dealers provide food on the day of the event. Corporate support comes from a number of sources, including Fred Simon, Gail Werner-Robertson, the Iowa West Foundation, Pinnacle Bank, the Omaha Downtown Improvement District, Blue Cross Blue Shield Nebraska, the United Way and Zaiss & Co.

This far-reaching outreach has grown and developed into a well-managed and successful Omaha event and is now recognized as one of the top homeless events in the country. It is something in which our community can take great pride.

However, this year is already proving to be difficult for many of our homeless neighbors and service providers. There is a serious lack of housing; in fact, there are waiting lists for housing with the city, county and at our shelters. Because there are so many newly homeless, we are reaching a critical point in our ability to serve everyone living on the streets.

Therefore, we are reaching out to the rest of the communities in the area to join Creighton University this year on March 26th in supporting and providing the assistance necessary to take this event beyond all  expectations in providing care to our homeless neighbors.

To get involved, please visit the Project Homeless Connect Omaha Web site,

Together, we can make a positive difference in our community.