Community Care Investments
Every Omahan Has The Right To Live A Safe Life Where Their Basic Needs Are Met
“The issues we face as a community are best solved as a WHOLE community. We can and deserve to be one Omaha. The good news is real solutions are well within reach.”
In light of COVID-19, we can no longer be a city that is focused on preserving the status quo. When over 7,400 Omahans are living on our city's streets due to lack of housing availability or access to consistent mental health care, we know it’s time to live up to our city motto of We Don’t Coast. We believe that we can strengthen our city with community care investments in three key areas: Mental health access, defining a clear minimum standard of living, and fighting homelessness. I propose the City of Omaha establish a Department of Community Services similar to the one established in Raleigh, NC. This investment will address numerous community issues that impact the lives of every resident.
Investment In Mental Health
Mental healthcare is one of the biggest contributing factors to homelessness. At least 25% of individuals experiencing homelessness has chronic mental health issues, with 45% experiencing acute mental illness. Providing access to mental healthcare can be transformative for individuals. It will also contribute to the betterment of our city as a whole. I propose providing mental health access by:
Partnering with local universities for students to provide mental healthcare to underserved communities as part of their degree practicum.
Connect with local businesses to house onsite Social Workers and/or Licensed Mental Health Practitioners (LMHP) to meet the mental health needs of employees.
Work with local law enforcement and 911 to have social workers and other mental health professionals respond to mental health emergencies, similar to the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, OR.
Create an organization of assertive community treatment (ACT) teams to deliver mental healthcare services to people who cannot function in the community, make or meet appointments, or are otherwise unable to access mental healthcare.
Investment In Basic Needs Access
We need to set a minimum standard of living for all Omaha residents to include:
Living Wage Jobs
Without having these fundamental human needs met, our residents cannot thrive. They will be trapped in a cycle of poverty, with little opportunity or ability to overcome their circumstances. Ensuring the most basic needs of our residents are met, provides them with the chance to change their circumstances, grow, and prosper in our city.
Beyond setting this basic minimum standard of living, there are a number of other ways we can affordably provide support to meet the basic needs of our population including:
Investing in Community Centers and reestablishing Summer outreach programming (ie: Sun Dawgs) to support underserved youth.
Developing and carrying out a broad program of transportation and engineering management to provide for the safe, economical, and efficient movement of persons and goods throughout the City
Partnering with local businesses to increase job training programs that promote living wages.
Investments in Public Health coordination with the Douglas County Department of Health.
There are a number of ways that we can help meet the basic needs of our population and eradicate absolute poverty, generational poverty, and situational poverty, while also working to reduce relative poverty. One of the best ways to do this is to promote access to living wage jobs in our community for all Omahans. Learn more about research at MIT on Living Wage in Douglas County here: https://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/31055
Investment In Combating Homelessness
Homelessness is truly the product of a failing society. We propose Omaha adopts a zero tolerance policy when it comes to homelessness in our city. We have multiple resources in this city to help our fellow residents. We have incredible shelters, volunteers that work tirelessly day and night, and community members always willing to donate whatever they can to help. Homelessness persists in our city because of a lack of political will from our city leadership to solve the problem, rather than just disperse and ignore (as was the purpose of the Panhandling Ordinance).
Connect Omaha with Built for Zero, a data-driven program that has helped three US cities completely eradicate chronic homelessness (and nine more significantly reduce the homelessness problem).
Leverage existing local, state, and federal programs to provide housing-based assistance and ensure that individuals experiencing homeless are informed about and have access to these great programs.
Expand street outreach programs and invest in day centers within our community so individuals affected by homelessness know how and where to access benefits and support.
Homelessness in Omaha can be ended with the right approach and a priority focus from our leadership.
Imagine the growth possibilities if everyone in our city had the support of the community through robust and engaging care investments. The more access we provide our residents, the more they will thrive and help Omaha continue to be a shining example of how the Midwest differentiates itself from the coasts through compassion and care for our neighbors.