A Little Goes A Long Way

A look on the homeless issue in Nebraska

Homeless camp in downtown Omaha, NE.

Photo by wowt.com

Homeless camp in downtown Omaha, NE.

The homeless issue has been a growing problem in Omaha, Neb. over the past few years and  many people are looking to find ways to help out. 

A huge role that plays a part in homelessness is that people don’t have access to materials or help. There are now programs starting up locally to help those in need, like the Open Door Mission. 

The different programs include education, vocational training, skill sets, and mental health to help those who don’t have proper resources get back up on their feet. 

Oftentimes, if they don’t have access to shelters they find coverage in state/city parks and abandoned farms. They stay in places that they can be in 24/7 without worry that they are trespassing. Another common place is under bridges downtown to block the wind and rain. 

In 2016, over 10,000 people were, or have, experienced being homeless. Over half of them were in Omaha and a quarter was in Lincoln. The rest were in rural Nebraska and small towns.

Others who are homeless are struggling with some sort of abuse, like domestic violence or substance abuse, and some are veterans. The Open Door Mission in Lincoln said, “50% of women and children are victims of domestic abuse. 37% of men are veterans.”

In January 2019, there was an estimated 2,365 experiencing homelessness on any given day. 201 of those are families and 175 are veterans. 3,723 students were facing homlessness in public schools across Nebraska. 

Graph of the 2,365 people who are homeless. (Photo by Ellie Meckna)

Over the years as more people became aware of the issue the numbers have decreased. Many schools host canned food drives. Some private middle schools, like St. Wenceslaus, make it a competition between the grades. Whatever grade brings the most canned food receives rewards like pizza day or a game truck. 

A lot of the times the schools offer volunteer opportunities by going to the food bank and helping deliver the food that they collected during the drive. St. Wenceslaus ambassador program also selects a few students to help at The Holy Family Catholic Church downtown. They join the volunteer staff in making bologna sandwiches and lunch bags to hand out to those in need.

The Holy Family Catholic Church does this every Thursday and they greatly appreciate the help of the students. People from all ages line up at the door around noon to collect their bag. During the colder months they also hand out hats, gloves, and warmer clothing.

A few students from Elkhorn North also like to participate in helping those in need. Amber Baxter, a junior, recently moved to Omaha from Hawaii, and she sees a huge difference in the homeless population and tries her best to help. Her mom and grandmother started their own program to help those in need back in Hawaii so she grew up always helping others in need.

People in Hawaii stopping at Baxter’s mom’s shelter to collect food. (Photo by Amber Baxter)

Baxter and her friend, Kaida Nguyen, a junior from ENHS, go to local stores to collect food they no longer need anymore. They then proceed to drive around Omaha, mostly downtown and on Maple Street, looking for people in need to give the food they collected to. 

While living in Hawaii, she would help her mom everyday but now makes the effort to get out at least once a week. Baxter will post on her social media asking if anyone has anything they would like to donate, especially old, outgrown clothes. She said, “No matter how little you have you always have something to give. You’re making an impact on that person’s life. Really, a little goes a long way.”

If you’re interested in ways to help out, you can look at Open Door Mission, The Holy Family Catholic Church and Society of St. Vincent de Paul(a food pantry) websites linked below. They will have additional information about what they do and do not accept as donations as well as locations where to donate. 


Open Door Mission – https://www.opendoormission.org/donate/donate-items/ 

Society of St. Vincent de Paul – https://www.svdpomaha.com/ 

The Holy Family – (402) 345-1062