Omaha Street Medic’s Operation brings new hope in the new year

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Hannah Michelle Bussa
CONTRIBUTOR

“Operation: Soup for My Family” by Omaha Street Medics grew in part due to a fundraiser, promoted by artwork. Karmen Valadez, UNO alumna and studio lab tech at UNO, created the artwork as part of the social media and creative team for OSM. Photo courtesy of Karmen Valadez.

While medics showed up last May during the George Floyd protests in Omaha, many did not have training or experience. A Facebook group was created on May 30 to organize the medics on the streets in a sustainable way, and Omaha Street Medics (OSM) was formed.

“James Scurlock was murdered hours after the group was formed,” Tedde, one of the founding members of OSM, said. “His death only made the need to organize more urgent.”

Since then, OSM has organized, trained and provided support for direct action in Omaha. They have also branched out to doing outreach with houseless populations. The current operation, called ‘Operation: Soup for My Family’ is focused on direct support to fill the gaps.

“Operation: Soup was started as the winter started approaching and our collective was looking for more ways to be involved in the community as direct actions started thinning out,” Tiff, an OSM organizer, said.

Initially, the group passed out COVID-related items and focused on medical mutual aid. It has grown into an operation that distributes PPE, warm meals and clothes. They work to dismantle the idea that “beggars can’t be choosers.”

“I believe that this intervention preserves the integrity for the clients as they receive their goods, and I can see that it does make them feel cared for,” Tiff said. “Our goal for this specific operation was to help keep the unhoused warm and fed with nutritious food. We have the time and manpower, and thankfully [many others – even strangers] want to be involved and have the resources to send our way.”

OSM’s Operation does consistent distributions twice a week to be accessible to the individuals who want to reach them. OSM has goals to grow in 2021, though ideally, their goal is to no longer be needed.

“Realistically, I want to continue aiding and building relationships with houseless people in Omaha and help direct them to resources,” Tedde said. “We would never force anybody into a program if they didn’t want to go, but we can support people until they’re ready and help build a bridge towards more established organizations.”

OSM is focused on the thousands of unhoused people in Omaha and works to get resources to those who are overlooked, as well as those who are skeptical of nonprofits.

“This year has proved we only have each other,” Tedde said. “We’ve been failed by all levels of government, by employers, by systems of power. It can feel so heavy at times. [Operation: Soup] proves that we don’t need to only rely on those who have failed us. We aren’t powerless – we can ask for help when we need it and help others wherever we’re able.”

The Operation is bringing new hope to houseless neighbors.

“Each time we go down to distribution, we get asked which group, church or non-profit with whom we’re associated,” Tiff said. “[When we say we aren’t], the clients are often shocked, and express how it shows that we’re doing this from love.”

One client said, “This shows that you care. And we need people who care.”

To support Omaha Street Medics and the Operation, find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at Omaha Street Medics for opportunities to get involved. They are on Venmo/Cashapp @OmahaStreetMedics and Paypal.me/OmahaStreetMedics and have a wish list at tinyurl.com/OSMwishlist.

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