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    |  

Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
Grace: Pipe organ concert a tribute to couple's enduring love
Omaha-area jails and ERs new front line in battling mental illness
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Civil rights hearing to consider voting policies in Midwest
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Explosion near 29th, Woolworth damages vehicles
Omaha police arrest man, 19, accused in March shooting
Earth gets its day in the sun at Elmwood Park
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
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.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
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 »