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Nebraska cooling centers open to provide relief as summer heats up

A late June heat wave blanketed the Midwest, including parts of Nebraska.
SCM Jeans/Getty Images/iStockphoto
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iStockphoto
A late June heat wave blanketed the Midwest, including parts of Nebraska.

The CDC says about 1,220 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. Thousands more suffer from heat-related illnesses that cause muscle cramps, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting.

Cooling centers are proven to help lower the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths.

As the heat index soared into the hundreds this past weekend, the Siena Francis House in downtown Omaha opened its cooling center for the first time in 2024.

The nonprofit organization, which serves Omaha’s unhoused population, provides an air-conditioned space that can fit up to 70 people. Caseworkers from Siena Francis provide bottled water, sunscreen, lip balm and lunch to any person without housing.

Chris Bauer, chief advancement officer at Siena Francis, estimates that the cooling center goes through about 500 bottles of sunscreen each summer.

"This place exists because of the Omaha community supplying us with things that we don’t necessarily think about on our day to day,” Bauer said. “The best way people can help is by being a part of the solution.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 1,220 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. Thousands more suffer from heat-related illnesses that cause muscle cramps, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting.

The CDC found that the populations most at risk for heat-related illnesses may have the least access to air-conditioned spaces. Vulnerable groups include senior citizens, children and people with preexisting health conditions. Pregnant women, outdoor workers and people living in low-income communities are also at high risk.

Beyond the cooling center at Siena Francis, there are more community organizations across the Omaha metro that provide a reprieve from the heat.

The Salvation Army of Omaha has three locations that serve as cooling centers when the National Weather Service announces a heat advisory that lasts several days. Anyone, regardless of housing status, can take advantage of the air conditioning.

“We usually have bottled water to make sure that people are staying hydrated,” Jonathan Kuebler, general manager at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, said. “But really, it is just about having a safe, comfortable place to be during the extreme temperature.”

Omaha’s Salvation Army locations accept donations of bottled water to supply their cooling centers. Siena Francis accepts bottled water, sunscreen, lip balm and hats.Residents of Omaha and Lincoln can find their closest cooling center by dialing 211 or by referencing the list below.

Cooling centers and hours:

Omaha

Garland Thompson Men’s Center
2705 N 20th St. E #249, Omaha, NE 68110
Only open on extremely hot days.
Call 402-422-1111 for openings and hours.

Generation Diamond
4829 S 25th St., Omaha, NE 68107
Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Only serves unhoused and recently incarcerated individuals.

New Visions Omaha
1425 N 18th St., Omaha, NE 68102
Call 712-256-3940 for openings and hours.

Siena Francis House
1401 N 18th St., Omaha, NE 68102
Open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on days when the heat index is 100 or higher.
Cooling center dedicated to serving unhoused people.

The Salvation Army - Kroc Center
2825 Y St., Omaha, NE 68107
Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when there is a multi-day heat advisory.

The Salvation Army - North Corps
2424 Pratt St., Omaha, NE 68111
Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when there is a multi-day heat advisory.

The Salvation Army - Renaissance Village
3612 Cuming St., Omaha, NE 68131
Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. when there is a multi-day heat advisory.

Youth Emergency Services
2566 Farnam St., Omaha, NE 68131Call 402-345-5187 for openings and hours.

Lincoln

F Street Community Center
1225 F St., Lincoln, NE 68508
Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anyone can use the lobby as a place to cool off.

This story comes from the Midwest Newsroom, an investigative journalism collaboration including IPRKCUR 89.3Nebraska Public Media NewsSt. Louis Public Radio and NPR.

Isa Luzarraga is a journalism major and honors student at Emerson College in Boston. The Omaha native joins the Midwest Newsroom in partnership with Latino News Network and the Hortencia Zavala Foundation.
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