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(December 11, 2019)

Hundreds of men and women will spend the night in Omaha’s new Siena Francis House shelter on Thursday.

“Only in Omaha does this happen,” said Heritage Services President Susan Morris.

Heritage Services raised $18 million from donors to build the new 43,000 square foot shelter near 17th and Nicholas. The shelter has beds for 350 men and 100 women, far greater than the 262-bed building it replaces.  The opening of the new shelter is also the beginning of a shift in services for persons who are homeless.

“For 45 years, we have been working on solutions to a complex problem,” said Siena Francis House Executive Director Linda Twomey. She estimates more than 1,400 men and women are homeless in Omaha every night. “Building shelter beds is not the solution to ending homelessness. This building allows us to change our focus to services.  Everyone who comes through the door will work on leaving as soon as possible.”

“The vision for this project began in 2015 when a donor asked Heritage Services to consider building a new shelter,” said Morris. “Eighteen months later, after evaluation and thorough due diligence on the best model, design, then construction began with three important priorities . . . safety, durability and dignity.”

“The shelter will provide a safe, respectful, and friendly environment for everyone who comes here for help and support,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Our goal must be to end homelessness. To some, it may seem unreachable, but each step we take together gets us closer to that goal.”

The City of Omaha paid for infrastructure costs including the demolition of the former day service center and the cleanup of the property.  The 2019 Capital Improvement Plan included $2.5 million dollars in redevelopment bonds for the project.

Heritage Services also announced today that the Baright Shelter next door will be renovated for the Miracles Recovery drug rehabilitation program. The building will house and provide services for up to 32 women and 48 men.  Construction will begin this month and will be completed in August. Donors have contributed $12 million.

“Nearly everything we accomplish benefits from the leadership, financial support, and vision of these valued partners,” said Mayor Stothert.  “This is a day for welcome, thank you, and a celebration of new beginnings.”