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What can kids do to help: questions from third graders about non congregate temporary housing

An screenshot of two zoom screens. The top shows young people in third grade in a classroom. The bottom shows Naomi Hattaway waving from a different location.

For several years in a row, Naomi Hattaway, FPI’s director of communications and community initiatives, has logged onto zoom for a very important discussion, with very very important folks in Omaha. Please meet Mrs. Rohrig and Ms. Dalton's third grade classes at Brownell Talbot! As part of their annual Everyday Heroes series, Naomi has joined their classroom to teach the classroom about housing stability, homelessness, and to share stories of the non congregate temporary housing site.


About the non congregate temporary housing site:

In late January 2022, Together, in partnership with Front Porch Investments, launched the non congregate site program (NCS) at the former 402 Hotel site in downtown Omaha. The pilot program is a collaborative effort between the City of Omaha, Douglas County, Together, Front Porch Investments, and private philanthropic partners. 

Original eligibility for the program focused on individuals who are 65 years of age and older, as well as those who suffer from medical vulnerabilities. Through data and presenting referrals, the age was adjusted to be 55 years of age and older. Through on-site case managers, guests can access real-time support by obtaining personal identification documents, securing permanent housing, and navigating medical care and other social services.

The purpose of this program was to reduce shelter density, and support community members over the age of 65 years of age, or those with medical fragility or vulnerabilities as a COVID-19 response. Injecting a human-centered approach to prevention, this partnership provided an opportunity to also prioritize exits to permanent housing. Future outcomes are expected to prove a more cost-effective approach to serving this specific population, based on local and national data that it would lead to reduced costs for emergency and hospital systems.

We wanted to share some of the questions that Naomi received from this amazing group of 8-9 year olds. To help me answer these questions, we’ve asked Tina Murray, director of crisis engagement from Together, to provide her expertise and wisdom: 

How do people get to the hotel? 

Folks are referred by community partners and organizations, who ask certain questions. Once someone has been referred, based on criteria and eligibility (such as being 55 years of age or older, having a medical fragility or vulnerability, etc) then intake meetings are scheduled.   

How long can people stay at the hotel? 

While this program is designed to offer temporary housing, there are no time limits! The concept of the program is that referred guests are working on their exit plan to permanent housing from the moment they arrive. Guests start working with case management staff in the first 24 hours after their intake appointment. Case management staff assist to work through any housing barriers, housing needs, and any other issues. As long as the guest / program participant is actively working on their housing plan, they are welcome to stay.  

How many people can the program help at a time? 

Currently the hotel site has 38 rooms available to be occupied. Once renovations are completed, the program will be able to accommodate participants in 50 rooms. A room serves the needs of the household, which could be one person or a family of eight. 

What can kids do to help? 

Collecting prizes or other small items for game nights, creating welcome cards that go with NCS welcome kits when folks move in, or snacks for guests! Your family can also donate to support things like move-in kits (general items for moving in – like a can opener or a toilet brush!), bedding or towels! 

Little things add up and can be something that folks on fixed incomes often struggle to obtain. To learn more about supporting Together with donations for this project, read this article on the Together website.


Thank you, Tina! Some of the other questions the 3rd Graders asked (and our answers): 


Why do they need help and why should we help them? 

We believe that it is all of our responsibility to help our neighbors. There are so many opportunities for different groups to help: government and people we elect, nonprofits like Together, communities of faith, neighborhood groups, and more.  

People can experience homelessness for many reasons: lack of affordable housing, low-paying jobs, unsafe housing choices, and racist and exclusionary housing practices. Homelessness can impact one person individually, or families with many people including children and elders. 

How many total people have you helped? 

The non congregate project helped 122 people in 2022! Our definition of “help” includes:   

  • Birth certificate and identification documents 
  • Finding permanent and safe places to live 
  • Reuniting humans with their pets and making sure they get the vaccinations they need 
  • Dental and medical services 
  • Clothes, food, household items 
  • Bus tickets (also called bus fare) and other transportation help 


We are proud of this project at Front Porch Investments, and thankful for the partnership with Together. The impact of this work will continue in 2023 and beyond, and we loved sharing a bit about it with Mrs. Rohrig and Ms. Dalton's third grade classes at Brownell Talbot!