Matt Talbot Street Outreach team seeing fewer people on streets

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – Multiple times a week, teams from Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach walk the streets of downtown Lincoln. They’re looking for the city’s unsheltered homeless population or people who live on the streets. They take a bag full of essential supplies to help them get through the winter.

The outreach starts at the Bennett Martin Public Library, with one man and a backpack. The team usually hands out all kinds of supplies: socks, snacks, sports drinks, ponchos, masks, baby powder and feminine products.

“If they don’t want to come to us, it’s our responsibility and duty to come to them to make sure they have everything they need,” said Stanford Bradley, Matt Talbot’s Outreach Coordinator.

Before the pandemic, the outreach team would see about 25 people. But now, the downtown streets of Lincoln look like a ghost town.

Bradley finds what appears to be a sleeping nook for a homeless person. There are cardboard signs that say ‘Testing Human Kindness’ and newspaper. But nobody is inside.

“It’s been really slow downtown, not a lot of people visibly there we can give supplies too,” said Bradley.

So slow, that the team only sees a handful of people per outing.

But somewhere, the math doesn’t add up. The latest ‘point in time’ count shows there are 28 to 39 unsheltered people in Lincoln. 80% are men, 20% are women and there is one unsheltered family.

“We’ve got to get creative and find where they are, whether that is an encampment, under a bridge,” Bradley said. “Wherever it’s at, we need to find them and we do find them and get them what they need.”

Some have moved to tent camps, others under bridges. But the outreach team said they’ve been adjusting to find the people who need them wherever they may be.

“We really have to scour the blocks downtown to find people to reach out and give supplies to,” said Bradley. “We adjusted and started going to places where we know they inhabit… Everybody is navigating this COVID thing. Everybody is just trying to survive and stay healthy. That’s no different than you and I.”

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