Trying to escape homelessness in Lincoln

Story and multimedia by Reid Hunsaker, NewsNetNebraska

For one Lincoln man, getting back into the work world and providing for his family is his motivation everyday.  Jason has been staying at the People’s City Mission since November 2015.  He tells me it’s hard for him to get out on his own again, but the staff is working hard with him to find permanent housing.

A Section 8 Housing Voucher offers a struggling individual the opportunity to let the government pay for his or her rent.  The problem with this program is it can take men up to two years to receive that golden ticket from the government.

Jason was set up with a case director when he signed an agreement to live in the mission.  He only has 90 days to find a job and a place to live before his contract runs out and he is on his own.

Case manager Earl Richardson has anywhere from 15 to 25 people on his case.  He says the ultimate goal is to transition folks into permanent housing.

Alex Snavely, the director of the Men’s Shelter at the People’s City Mission, assists with the case managers and their clients in anyway possible.  Jason says Snavely has been a big influencer to accomplish his goals.
Snavely helped get Jason a bus pass and a job at McDonald’s to earn money to pay rent on an apartment. Thanks to Snavely, Jason also earned his food handler’s permit and will soon work full-time.

Unfortunately, not everyone can enjoy the transition to the work world as easy as Jason.  Richardson says the hardest part of his job is when he can’t provide permanent housing as fast as he would like to.  Earl says the biggest challenge they face is lacking the funding and capacity needed to get people on the right path.

Mission prepares for winter weather

Every year, the People’s City Mission serves nearly 30,000 people in Lincoln and provides those in need with 200,000 meals annually.

When the cold weather comes, the People’s City Mission opens as many doors as it can to keep the homeless warm. But Tom Barber, who is the Executive Director at the People’s City Mission, says they are almost always overcapacity.

“We are overcapacity almost year round, but especially in the wintertime. It’s been like that for almost five or six years now.”

Barber, also known as Pastor Tom to many, has been spreading awareness about Lincoln’s homeless for over 10 years now.  He believes there is a perception problem with how the homeless are viewed in Lincoln.


“Personally, I believe they are being stereotyped,” Richardson says.  “We have families here that are just down on their luck or may have made a couple of bad choices.  When you come to meet these people, you realize these are good people like you and me.”

Earl says he occasionally runs into someone that used to live in the mission, but is living on his or her own now.  He says that is his motivation when he wakes up every morning.

On the road back to everyday life

Inside the People’s City Mission, you will find a beautiful facility behind the Men’s Shelter.  The Curtis Center is a two-year transitional housing service provided by the People’s City Mission for U.S. veterans.  Nine out of ten guys living in the Curtis Center have served in our armed forces.

Mark Raudabaugh, is nearing the end of his two-year contract at the Curtis Center.  Raudabaugh served in the U.S. military for four years.

The Curtis Center houses 50 rooms located just behind the People's City Mission

The Curtis Center houses 50 rooms located just behind the People’s City Mission

On January 1, Raudabaugh’s two years will run out.  Fortunately, Mark has found a steady job and looks to find his own apartment when he is out of the program.  He wants to keep in touch with the 50 other guys staying at the Curtis Center, but he understands his time is up and he would like other veterans to utilize the service the Curtis Center provides.

“I’ll miss it a little bit, but its time for me to move on so somebody else can come in that’s a veteran and is homeless that needs a place to say.”



The operation

One of the most popular operations at the People’s City Mission is the Free Clinic.  Almost 95 percent of people use this free medical service but do not stay at the mission or use any of its services.  The clinic is located right behind the mission and is very beneficial to the people of Lincoln.

The Homeless Prevention Center, located on 26th and O street, provided 45 million pounds of clothing, toys, beds, books and food to those in need last year.  Although this building is not a shelter, it gives out numerous resources, both physically and mentally, to individuals who are on the verge of being homeless.

The People’s City Mission is the only homeless shelter in Lincoln, Nebraska.  They run overcapacity almost year round, especially in the wintertime.  If you would like to volunteer your time or resources to the mission, click here to learn how to get involved or call the mission at (402) 475-1303.





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