NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) -This year, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated money to assist homeless shelters nationwide. They awarded nearly $10 million to homeless assistance programs throughout the state of Nebraska. The Connection Homeless Shelter in North Platte was one of those programs.
“As a community, having a homeless shelter here is really beneficial because the more productive and contributing community members we have, the stronger we are as a community,” said Connection Executive Director Ashley Lewis. “We provide services to our residents, who were not contributing before. To have them live here and become taxpaying citizens, I believe that is beneficial to our community as a whole.
The Connection received the emergency solutions grant which is related to assisting programs as a response to help shelters provide services through the coronavirus pandemic. This funding goes towards things such as food, staff and housing programs at the Connection. In addition, they also were granted funding that goes towards their operation costs.
“Our grants are pretty exclusive on what they can be used for, so the donations we get from the community go to the stuff the grants can’t cover,” said Lewis. “When one of our clients needs new shoes, for a new job because we don’t have their size in the thrift store, donations help us afford those. If we overspend our budget for clients’ medical needs, donations go towards making sure we don’t have to tell a client no on their medication. Donations assist the operation costs that the grant doesn’t fully cover.”
The grant funding allows the Connection to expand its services to the members of the homeless population who need their help. With the additional funds, the Connection was able to hire overnight staff.
COVID funding for homeless shelters is only the beginning in protecting the homeless population amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The next phase of vaccinations is scheduled to include the homeless population.
“I hope our at-risk clients are considering getting vaccinated,” said Lewis. “I think it can be helpful all across the board such as helping those older adults we serve. If they are vaccinated, and leave here they will not be at risk and going to a different homeless shelter or where ever they need to be.”
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