As COVID-19 became more prevalent in Omaha, the number of volunteers at the Siena Francis House dwindled. Even as vaccinations have increased and a sense of normalcy has returned to the city, many volunteers have yet to return to the agency.
The volunteer shortage at the Siena Francis House, which provides emergency shelter, food and clothing to individuals experiencing homelessness, has had an “enormous impact” on the its everyday operations, especially in meal service and kitchen areas, according to Silvia Rodriguez, volunteer services manager.
The past few months have brought some relief with more volunteers vaccinated and comfortable to return, Rodriguez said, but Siena Francis still has less than half the number of volunteers it had before the pandemic.
Even with a reduced number of dining room meal servers needed for each shift due to COVID-19 safety measures, a majority of volunteer opportunities remained unfilled for much of the past year.
To deal with the lack of volunteers, staff members have worked overtime to serve meals, and Siena Francis hired temporary dining room attendants to help with meal services. Both factors have contributed to significant budget issues, though officials do not have an exact dollar amount for the financial impact.
Those interested in volunteering at the Siena Francis House, located at 1702 Nicholas St., can sign up on the agency’s website at www.sienafrancis.org. Rodriguez can also be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 402-341-1821, ext. 1113.
A few safety measures implemented early on in the pandemic remain in effect at Siena Francis. Masks are still required to be worn by staff and shelter guests, social distancing is encouraged and volunteers are asked to pass a health screening before volunteering.
“We greatly appreciate all of our volunteers, and are eager for more of them to return to volunteering,” Rodriguez said. “We also want, and truly need, new volunteers, as we have expanded volunteer opportunities.”