Frequently Asked Questions


Understanding the Problem of Homelessness

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.

At Open Door Mission, we believe in coming alongside people experiencing homelessness and poverty, empathizing with their situation and speaking truth into their lives–that they are worthy, valued and created in the image of God. It’s our passion, our calling. And we’ve been doing it, thanks to partners like you, since 1954.

In 2022, Open Door Mission made an impact by:

  • Providing 157,195 nights of safe shelter.
  • Serving 1.42 million nutritious meals to feed the hungry.
  • Empowering 26,772 individuals to remain in their own homes and prevent homelessness.
  • Celebrating 85 graduates from life-changing programs.
  • Diverting 528 patients experiencing homelessness from hospital emergency room visits.
  • Volunteers changed lives by giving 47,245 hours of their valuable time.
  • Processed and redistributed 5.04 million pounds of Gift-in-Kind donations from generous donors.

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 counting in the last 10 days of January rather than summer months and not using the same definitions? I believe gap analysis would identify specific services our cities are lacking: emergency shelter, mental health services, homelessness prevention, street outreach, subsidized permanent supportive 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

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 will 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!

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

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 disability
  • Changes and cuts in public assistance programs
  • Substance abuse
  • Economic downturn
  • Job loss, decline in income
  • Unemployment
  • Domestic violence or abuse

According to the Citygate Network’s 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

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 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).

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.

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

  1. Browse through our Volunter Opportunites 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!
Compassion Card Request

7 Things that are part of normal life for impoverished families

  1. Search for affordable housing. Poor families either have to make do with substandard or dangerous housing, depend on the hospitality of relatives, or go homeless. (New York Times)
  2. Try to make $133 worth of food (the average amount for a food stamp recipient each month, as of 2016) last a whole month. That’s $4.38 a day. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
  3. Skip a meal. One in six Americans are food insecure. (World Vision, U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  4. Work longer and harder. Poor people actually work longer and harder than most. (Poverty & Learning)
  5. Live with chronic pain. Those earning less than $12,000 a year are twice as likely to report feeling physical pain on any given day. (Kaiser Health News)
  6. Live shorter lives. There is a 10 – 14-year gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. (Health Affairs)
  7. Accomplish one single goal: stay alive. Many working poor families are preoccupied with day-to-day survival. Life is not something to be enjoyed so much as endured. (Huffington Post)

Article provided by: