“It was my dad’s name, too! I’m a junior,” Omaha says sitting outside of his new home in downtown Saint Paul.
Omaha lived on the streets for nearly a decade. He slept on the couches of willing friends. He slept in his used PT Cruiser and spent several months sleeping in the first floor shelter of Catholic Charities’ Higher Ground. He ate all of his meals at Catholic Charities’ Opportunity Center.
Sleeping in cars and couches was tough on his body, wracked with severe arthritis. He spent his life working as a cook, but the arthritis and other health conditions have rendered him unable to work. He gets around with the help of a walker, and is thankful to have an oxygen machine and an outlet to plug it in.
“I like it here. It’s peaceful and quiet,” he said from his studio apartment in the heart of Saint Paul. “It feels good to sleep in a bed again.”
Omaha got into his new home thanks to Catholic Charities’ Homeless Elders program. The program helps seniors get connected with services and benefits they either didn’t know about or had a hard time accessing. Sometimes, that means filling out forms or working with partner agencies, making phone calls or setting up medical appointments.
Omaha’s case manager, Melea Blanchard, helped Omaha with securing the apartment and continues to work with him, helping him make connections to medical appointments and offering assistance when needed. Because his arthritis is so bad, Omaha is unable to write. Melea helped him with the many forms involved in obtaining an apartment. She also helped Omaha contact a former landlord for a reference, as he could not get into a home without the referral, among other things.
“It can be so hard for a low-income senior to obtain housing, even when they have a clean record and housing is available,” Melea said.
As the summer days fade to cooler nights, Omaha said he is thankful he no longer has to be out in the elements. He’s thankful he can get to most places he needs to go through the skyway. He’s thankful he is meeting new friends while sitting outside talking with neighbors. He’s thankful for all of you.
“Catholic Charities helped me get a place to live and gave me something to eat every day,” Omaha said.