Few homeless attempting to brave the cold outside - Omaha.com
Published Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 10:35 pm / Updated at 10:49 pm
Few homeless attempting to brave the cold outside

A thin blanket of snow covered the ashes of a homeless camp's fire ring in downtown Omaha on Sunday, a sign that no one had used it in recent days.

Outreach workers Ann Smolsky and Taylor Sutton were glad to see that, even though they went out Sunday to find homeless people because of the forecast of extreme cold.

“It would be great not to find anybody because everybody's gone inside because it's so cold,” said Smolsky, program coordinator of the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless.

It was a just-in-case mission for Smolsky, Sutton and other outreach workers Sunday. When it's this cold, even those most inured to the elements and most determined to stay outside have found a place inside.

Most are apparently staying in shelters, or crashing for a couple of nights on a friend's or relative's couch, or hunkering down in an abandoned building or a tent.

“We've seen a huge decrease in the number of people who are outside,” said Sutton, who works for the Nebraska AIDS Project and joins regular outreach teams on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “Usually we see about 15, but lately it's been one, two or three.”

Another outreach crew found a homeless man in South Omaha, gave him warm clothes and received his assurances that he would go to a shelter.

Church volunteers from Atlantic, Iowa, arranged for two homeless people to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights.

Only those with the fewest options, or people in mental health crises, would still be out on a night like Sunday.

Hauling a box of chemical handwarmer packets and bags of warm clothing, Smolsky and Sutton drove and hiked Sunday to a dozen Omaha places where people often stay outside, from the Missouri River past 72nd Street.

No one was there. An often- occupied recliner sat empty between a midtown Omaha building and dumpster. An empty coat arm dangled over a concrete wall beneath an Interstate bridge. A sleeping bag and pillow lay against the wall of a business near the Keystone Trail — enough to warrant a further look, which revealed no one nearby.

While no news may have been good news Sunday, it may not be the end of the story. Smolsky has heard of two people found dead outdoors already this winter.

And frostbite takes a toll that's not always noticed right away.

“We won't see the effects of this for a couple of weeks, when we see people who have gangrene” after suffering frostbite, said Del Bomberger, Stephen Center CEO. “We've seen lots of people lose toes.”

Contact the writer: Christopher Burbach

christopher.burbach@owh.com    |   402-444-1057    |  

Video: Stothert says Crossroads project is 'full speed ahead,' but she won't support bond issue
'Fairly old' human skull found in Mills County
World champion Crawford's promoter working to have title defense at CenturyLink Center
Police i.d. body found near 36th, Seward Streets
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
Omaha crash victim, 19, had touched many lives
Firefighters take on 'fully engulfed barn fire'
Council Bluffs school board approves new district headquarters
Officials announce effort to lure more veterans to Nebraska
SB 132nd Street lane closed
Shane Osborn grabs several endorsements
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Omaha area may get 1 inch of rain tonight
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
Owners of exotic dance bar deny prostitution allegations
More Nebraskans are electing to vote early
A day after Ricketts endorsement, Ted Cruz backs Sasse for Senate
TD Ameritrade says profit up 35 percent in second quarter
Some city streets remain closed
Nebraska's U.S. Senate candidates stick to familiar topics at Omaha forum
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
8% of alcohol sellers checked in Omaha area last week sold booze to minors
< >
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
The idea that Paul Hogan had studied and then hatched at his mother's table was that older people, rather than moving in with relatives or to an assisted-living center, would much prefer to stay home instead.
Breaking Brad: Nebraska GOP candidates unified against naked squirrels
Some of these Nebraska campaigns are tilting pretty far right. At a recent forum, there was a consensus that we need to ban public dancing and clothe naked squirrels in public parks.
Breaking Brad: Inside the mind of a 99-year-old real estate agent
I saw an article about a 99-year-old real estate agent who's still working. “This house is extra special. It has indoor toilets!”
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »