Shelter Services in Lincoln, Nebraska

February 3, 2012  //  United Way

For people who have always gone home to a warm house on a cold night, it is nearly impossible to believe that there are families who don’t have a home, warm or otherwise.

In Lincoln, the number of homeless is around 834, and it doesn’t change much just because the weather is cold. The shelters are packed. Some of those without permanent housing can count on friends for a night or two, others do what they can to stay warm outdoors. All the while, federal stimulus money that helped with shelter is drying up. United Way currently allocates $156,500 to help with homeless issues which is 8% of the total unrestricted allocations.

The reasons for homelessness are as varied as the people who need help. The usual culprits-poverty and addiction- are the most common causes of homelessness. But many ordinary working families find themselves homeless when a layoff happens or an illness takes the rent money. “We know that many families are just one paycheck away from being homeless,” says Robin McDannel, Senior Director of Fund Distribution and Community Planning at United Way.

Lincoln is not alone in struggling to deal with those who don’t have a roof over their heads. In fact, the number of homeless in Lincoln per 10,000 population is about typical for a city our size. When the most recent Homeless Point in Time Count (a date when city agencies actually go out on the streets to count homeless) occurred in January 2011, 621 households were identified as living without homes. While the majority of children from homeless households are in transitional shelter, there are still 35% of children from homeless households in emergency shelter. Forty-seven percent of those without children are in emergency shelters.

What is different about Lincoln is how well the agencies who help with homelessness work together, McDannel says. “They are pro-active when it comes to dealing with those who need a home, either in an emergency or for long term,” she says. ‘They have developed a database of resources, and they call each other to determine the best solution for a particular problem.”

United Way emphasizes case management so that emergency shelter needs don’t turn into chronic, long-term problems.

Ten organizations who receive United Way funding are:

  • Tabitha, Inc., adult day treatment
  • Asian Community and Cultural Center, basic needs
  • League of Human Dignity, Inc., barrier removal
  • Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties, basic and emergency needs
  • Indian Center, Inc., emergency assistance
  • Catholic Social Services, emergency assistance
  • People’s City Mission, family shelter
  • Fresh Start, Inc., women’s shelter
  • CEDARS Youth Services, safety, stability partnership
  • Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach, shelter and prevention