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Shelters welcome donations for winter

By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice

As cold temperatures roll in, Omaha shelters are preparing for the increase in the number of people they will serve this winter season. The influx of people means a need for more items, and the shelters are asking people to make donations.

"This time of year, the homeless persons who stay in our shelter need cold weather clothing items, including coats, sweatshirts, gloves, hats, socks, underwear and blankets," said Tim Sully, development director for the Siena/Francis House, Nebraska's largest homeless shelter.

He said the shelter, located at 1702 Nicholas St., provides overnight boarding for nearly 240 people and serves more than 680 meals daily. In the very cold weather, it provides shelter for 285 people per night, he said.

Guests at the Siena/Francis House also need personal care products, including soap, shampoo, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste and tooth brushes, as well as pain relievers, adhesive bandages, disposable diapers and feminine hygiene products. The kitchen and pantry need canned vegetables and fruit, cooking oil and butter.

At the Stephen Center, 2723 Q St., there is a need for cleaning and food supplies, as well as coffee, said Del Bomberger, director. He said the shelter began seeing an increase in the number of people being served about two to three weeks ago. The emergency shelter houses nearly 60 people daily in the winter, he said.

All local shelters are in need of bus tickets to help people get to social services and doctor appointments as well as job applications.

Rich Koeppen, director of the St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Family Shelter at 613 N. 17th St., said the shelter needs a new vacuum, hygiene products for residents and diapers for babies. Financial assistance is also needed to help keep the shelter open.

The shelter also welcomes gift certificates to Target and Wal-Mart, which allow people to purchase items when they are able to move to their own residence.

At Catholic Charities' Juan Diego Center, 5211 S. 31st St., and St. Martin de Porres Center, 2417 Burdette St., needy families receive help through a Christmas Assistance Program. The families, who qualify for assistance throughout the year, set personal goals and record their progress. With success, they receive additional assistance.

"Families receiving this assistance feel the dignity that they did this," said Ana Barrios, director of the Juan Diego Center. "It builds empowerment."

Sponsors are needed to provide food and Christmas gifts for children through the Christmas Assistance Program, she said.

Last year, Catholic Charities' shelters helped more than 1,000 children and 450 adults, Barrios said, and she expects to see the same need this year.

"The week before Christmas we get a lot of requests," she said. "It's very hard to send people away."

To make a donation, contact the various shelters: Siena/Francis House (341-1821), Stephen Center (731-0238), St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Family Shelter (342-3759), Juan Diego Center (731-5413) and St. Martin de Porres Center (341-4004).

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