He who opens a school door, closes a prison. Victor Hugo
Omaha – Human Services Strengths and Weaknesses
The Omaha community, comparatively speaking, is rich in resources and opportunities for people who are seeking out community support. Foremost among those organizations is The Salvation Army. Last year, The Salvation Army Omaha served more than 170,000 people. (“TSA”, 2010) They provide services that include homelessness prevention, developmental services for families and children (low-income head start, for example), senior services, disaster relief, and they operate a fully functional adult rehabilitation center for me despairing from drug and alcohol addiction. The Omaha Area Salvation Army is currently my community charity of choice. One program I was interested in is the Telephone Reassurance Program (TRP). Basically, volunteers make a phone call or a personal visit to a home bound senior citizen once a week.
Also among leading organizations in the Omaha community is the United Way of the Midlands. The United Way financially supports more than 150 vital Community Care Fund programs in partner agencies across the metro area. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, they support local health organizations including HELP Adult Services, Heartland Family Service Senior Center, Child Saving Institute-Emergency Shelter for Youth, Lutheran Family Services Building Families and Children program, and the Lutheran Family Services Mental Health Care and Counseling program. (“UWM”, 2010)
Despite best efforts, there is great opportunity for continued improvement in the overall quality of life for the people of Omaha. One area that is of specific need is public transportation. For example, Omaha is currently considering building a $700-800 million beltway system that will focus on transportation needs outside of the city, rather than in it. VOICE (a non-partisan group dedicated to creating a more inclusive, just, transparent, sustainable, and culturally vibrant Omaha) has an active working petition to pressure civic leaders to stop the beltway effort and provide citizens with a transportation plan that is more equitable. (http://voiceomaha.org/) This petition is also supported by a number of different organizations, including inCOMMON Community Development. (http://incommoncd.org/)
Another implicit need in the Omaha area revolves around child welfare reform and the foster care system. Currently, agencies are consistently asked to render the impossible, provide better outcomes with increasingly inadequate resources. Specific criticism includes both lack of insight and funding. (Helvey, 2010) Recent action on the issue includes CEDARS Youth Services (one of the five lead agencies in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Reform Contract) determining that the contract was “not financially feasible and that the cost to provide the services required by the contract was higher than anticipated and exceeded the amount funded by HHS.” (Helvey, 2010)