FAQ - Open Door Mission

Frequently Asked Questions

For most of us, homelessness is difficult to understand. To be without a job, without resources, without life’s basic necessities, without family and friends, is beyond our comprehension. But understanding the problem of homelessness is a critical first step to providing lasting solutions. That’s why we’ve provided answers to some of the basic questions many of us share.

How many people are homeless in Omaha?

About 2,000 people are homeless in the Omaha area.

Why does a person experience homelessness?

There are a wide variety of factors that might figure into someone experiencing homelessness. These include:

  • Poverty
  • Years of institutional living
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Family deterioration/abandonment
  • Physical/mental illness or disabili8ty
  • Changes and cuts in public assistance programs
  • Substance abuse
  • Economic downturn
  • Job loss, decline in income
  • Unemployment
  • Domestic violence or abuse

Who are the people experiencing homelessness in rescue missions like Open Door Mission?

According to the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions’ 2018 Snapshot Survey of people receiving services in 109 missions across North America:

  • Almost half (44%) of people experiencing homelessness are aged between 46 – 65
  • 86% are single
  • Over half (53%) of families experiencing homelessness are women with children
  • 10% are veterans
  • 27% have been homeless three or more times previously, which puts them in the “chronically homeless” designation
  • 29% have never been homeless before
  • 34% struggle with mental illness
  • 21% have been victims of physical violence in the last 12 months

What is the value of faith-based organizations like Open Door Mission in the battle against homelessness?

In 2017, Open Door Mission graduated 53 men and women from life-changing programs. Bringing a homeless person off the street into a stable environment easily saved the public some $35,000 per student1 (a 2017 total of $1,855,000) and will produce an additional $21,745 in projected taxpayer savings and increased income taxes for the 92% that maintain job readiness and sobriety2 (here a weighted total of $1,065,505). The compiled savings in 2017? $2,920,505.


1This figure is on the low end of recent estimates. In 2012, HUD Secretary Shaun Donavan placed the cost of a homeless person at $40,000 a year. Phil Mangano, who served in the second Bush administration as its homelessness czar, conducted a survey of 65 cities and found that the cost ranged from $35,000 up to $150,000 per homeless person per year. We are calculating savings with the lower end figure.

2Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, Assessing the Faith-Based Response to Homelessness in America: Findings from Eleven Cities, p. 139, 141 (table).

What is the Open Door Mission’s response to the new casino being built within walking distance of the Mission’s vulnerable homeless population?

Read our full statement reflecting the Mission’s response.

Are panhandlers truly homeless?

Many panhandlers in the greater Omaha area are not homeless, and often bring home more money per day than those who are employed at a regular job. But it is costly to support panhandlers, whether or not they are homeless. Beyond those panhandlers who live through misrepresenting themselves, panhandlers who are actually homeless often have co-occurring addictions. The money a well-meaning person might give them almost inevitably ends up supporting a drug or alcohol addiction that can cost the public through an addicted panhandler’s visit to the emergency room, or in jail for a misdemeanor committed under the influence.

How can I make a difference?

Open Door Mission encourages the community at large to join in the Compassion Movement in two ways:

  1. Browse through our Volunteer Opportunities and help out today.
  2. For resources to help homeless individuals on the streets, request your Compassion Cards. These contain vital information about the first steps to get out of homelessness. Give a hand up, not a hand out!

Request Compassion Cards

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