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.

Does Open Door Mission Offer Holiday Assistance?

Open Door Mission Turkey ‘N Fixins Box

Timberlake Outreach Center, Open Door Mission, 2107 East Locust Street, Omaha, (402) 422-1111
Council Bluffs Outreach Center, 1612 Avenue D, Council Bluffs
Elkhorn Outreach Center, 1620 North 203rd Street, Elkhorn

Registration November 5-23, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 9:30 am-5 pm at all three locations

-Must bring Photo ID for adult registering and proof of current residency
-One registration per household (address)
-Applicants will be able to choose their items for their Turkey n Fixin box from the Manna Food Pantry as well as supplement their income with free gently used clothing, shoes, toys, household items, toiletries, diapers and miscellaneous other items

Open Door Mission Toy and Joy Shop Program

Timberlake Outreach Center, 2107 East Locust Street, Omaha, (402) 422-1111
Council Bluffs Outreach Center, 1612 Avenue D, Council Bluffs
Elkhorn Outreach Center, 1620 North 203rd Street, Elkhorn

 Parents receive gifts for their children (ages 0-18) to place under the tree on Christmas morning from themselves or Santa.  Shopping will still be located at the Toy and Joy Shop in Omaha.

Registration December 10-21, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 9:30 am-5 pm at three locations

To register, an adult must bring photo ID, proof of current address, and SS card for each child being registered. Only one adult per household will need to be present. Children can only be registered for Project Santa once.  There is no childcare provided and children will not be permitted into the toy warehouse.  Applicants will choose a date and time to shop in the Toy and Joy shop before Christmas.

Open Door Mission Holiday Meals

Garland Thompson Men’s Center, 2705 N 20th Street E, Omaha    

Meals open to the public.

Christmas Eve Brunch, 9 am     New Years Eve Brunch, 9 am    New Years Day Brunch, 9 am
Christmas Day Banquet, 4 pm   New Years Eve Banquet, 4 pm  New Years Day Banquet, 4 pm


Annual PIT Count

The national PIT count undercounts the number of people experiencing homelessness by a significant margin. The discrepancies grow when you realize that HUD and the Department of Education do not use the same definition of homelessness. There are so many gaps in the data. If we truly wanted accuracy – why are we counting in the last 10 days of January rather than summer months and not using the same definitions. I believe a gap analysis would identify specific services our cities are lacking; emergency shelter, mental health services, homelessness prevention, street outreach, subsidized permanent housing, and permanent supportive housing. ***Disclaimer: The Open Door Mission does NOT receive government funds BUT many of our partners do and when funds are not available and based on inaccurate numbers it HURTS our neediest and most vulnerable neighbors that we love and serve.

Sheltering the homeless: These 48 major US cities face growing homeless populations

The U.S. homeless population grew in 2018 for the second straight year. New York City is among the biggest cities with the most unsheltered homeless.

Check out this story on

Does Open Door Mission accept IRA Gifts?

While new tax cuts went into effect last year, many provisions relating to charitable giving remain intact. Most prominently, qualifying donors can still make direct transfers to charities from individual retirement accounts (IRAs) without first having to recognize the distribution as income.

People over 70 1/2 years old are required to make minimum yearly distributions from their retirement accounts – distributions that are taxed by the government. But qualifying donors are still allowed to give up to $100,000 per year from these accounts to charity, which counts toward the minimum disbursement, without being taxed. You may make tax-free transfers from your IRA or Roth IRA if:

  • You are 70 1/2 years or older
  • Your cumulative tax-free transfers to charity do not exceed $100,000 per tax year (married couples can donate up to $200,000 per year).
  • Your tax-free transfers are made directly from your IRA or Roth IRA to a qualified public charity, like Open Door Mission, and NOT to donor-advised funds, supporting organizations or private foundations.

Transfers completed by December 31, 2019 will be free of federal income tax this year, and such gifts qualify for the 2019 required minimum distribution from donors’ IRAs. Please act now to support Open Door Mission – and to fulfill your own charitable goals – by taking advantage of the planning options available to you.

If you would like us to coordinate with your fund custodian a direct transfer of funds from your IRA or Roth IRA to Open Door Mission, please contact our Chief Financial Officer, Mike Johnson, at

Thank you for considering this excellent charitable-giving opportunity!

How is Open Door Mission assisting displaced flood victims?

The Open Door Mission team is praying for those directly affected by the recent flooding.
We have provided from our storehouse – linens, blankets, diapers, and bottled water to
agencies providing direct contact with those in need.  Open Door Mission’s 3 – Outreach Centers are listed with United Way’s 2-1-1 Helpline in homeless prevention services as well as for those in need of resources. If you have been displaced by the flood or know someone who has, please click the get help button. Thanks to the generosity of the community, we provide groceries, diapers, toiletry kits, hygiene items, bottled water, household items, gently used toys, clothing, furniture, and appliances, etc. for free.

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 2018, Open Door Mission graduated 47 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?

Open Door Mission cannot act as though the opening of a casino within a ten-minute walk of our campus would have no effect on the people we serve. The irony of the fact that we’re making this statement during Problem Gambling Awareness Month is not lost on the men, women, and children who come to us for help every day.

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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How did Open Door Mission make an impact in 2018? Here are our 2018 statistics.

In 2018 Open Door Mission….

  • Provided 189,800 nights of safe shelter.
  • Served 1.3 million nutritious meals to feed the hungry.
  • Empowered 40,069 individuals to remain in their own homes and prevented homelessness.
  • Celebrated 47 graduates from life-changing programs.
  • Cared for 300 homeless patients each week in the Free Health & Healing Clinic.
  • Was encouraged by 19,868 volunteers donating their time.