Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach (MTKO) staff members welcomed the public Nov. 16 to an open house of the nonprofit’s newly completed 2,500-square-foot addition at 2121 N. 27th St.
The two-level expansion, built by Hampton Construction, adds eight offices, two meeting rooms and records storage – bringing the facility’s total square footage to 10,000.
“People were working on top of each other in our offices before the expansion,” said Lynda Flynn, MTKO operations director. “Having more offices creates a better work environment for our staff and better services for our clients who see them. When we moved in, we didn’t know we would add to our programs and staff like we have.”
In 2010, MTKO moved eight staff members from 1911 R St. into the former Carnegie library building on North 27th Street. With the addition and growth of housing, substance use and outreach programs, MTKO now employs 14 full-time and five part-time staff members, Flynn said. Staff moved into the new offices Oct. 23.
“Adding space is really about saving and transforming lives,” said Susanne Blue, MTKO’s executive director. “Our new programs, which reach out with housing for the homeless and support services, are transformational. Once people are housed and off the streets, we can address other issues like addictions and mental illnesses.”
Founded 25 years ago to feed the hungry, MTKO continues to serve meals – 350 to 400 a day – at lunch and dinner times.
“The feeding brings people here, but what happens after that, preventing homelessness, is our passion,” Blue said. “Our feeding program is very self-sufficient and volunteer-driven, and we’re thankful for that volunteer support, which has allowed us to expand into other support areas. We’re doing much more than serve food now, and that’s exciting.”
While eating a meal at MTKO, guests can learn about housing, substance use services, literacy classes, cooking and gardening classes, shower and laundry facilities, and other outreach services available to them.
New initiatives implemented in 2017 have included the First HOPE Project, which provides permanent supportive housing to 12 individuals and three families who were previously chronically homeless. The housing is made possible through a renewable grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.
Another recent initiative, implemented in December 2016, is the Landlord Liaison Project, which builds partnerships with landlords and property managers. In its first year, the project has secured affordable housing for 62 formerly homeless individuals.
Providing supportive housing for homeless individuals is a citywide effort. CenterPointe, Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties, Region V Services and others also provide housing for the homeless and support services.
About 40 percent of MTKO’s clients are homeless and 60 percent are working poor, Blue said.
“Our substance use and housing programs are part of our ultimate goal to end hunger and homelessness and restore hope,” she added.
The construction project is being funded by donations to the Bold Hope campaign.
“We’re probably $10,000 to $20,000 away from our fundraising goal,” Blue said at the Nov. 16 open house. “We don’t know the total cost yet – bills are still coming in. Initially we thought we would need $750,000. A few things have come up, so we might go a little over that. But we’re close to our fundraising goal.”
Blue quickly added that the need for financial support continues.
“A few years ago, with collaborative work by the Lincoln Homeless Coalition, we thought we were close to ending homelessness in our community,” she said. “But we still have work to do. As Lincoln grows, we see more of those challenges.”
MTKO served 3,500 unduplicated clients in one way or another in the past year, Blue said. To learn more about MTKO’s services and to make a donation, see mtko.org.