CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Time is running out to find a spot for a new 24-hour shelter in Champaign. It’s part of a years-long effort to better serve the needs of people who are homeless.
Tuesday, C-U at Home announced they approached township officials about putting the new shelter in their building. C-U at Home is on Washington Street. It’s several blocks away from the location the Township has been considering – the Habitat for Humanity building on University Avenue.
Township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom said they’ll have to enter a contract or a lease on September 20. Then he hopes to move forward with a plan by October 1.
“We’re really excited about it. The challenge of course is putting the pieces together and putting the pieces together in that time frame,” he said.
Quarnstrom said he’s confident it’ll be up and running by November 1.
Until then, the biggest challenge is picking a location. That’s why he said working with C-U at Home could simplify the process.
“That could be turnkey for us. We could move in there tomorrow,” he said.
They’re still considering Habitat for Humanity’s building, but Quarnstrom said that would requre extensive renovations.
“C-U at Home was built to be a congregate shelter and there’s no other building in our community, in the county, in downstate Illinois really that’s available, that is intended to be for that use,” he said.
But in the future, C-U at Home wants to offer more private living quarters. They’re open to the township buying their property for its new shelter, but if they did, C-U at Home would have to move elsewhere.
“We believe the clients that are ready to take next steps toward working on their mental health, toward sobriety, life skills, job skills – all of those things – need an environment that’s less congregate than the environment that we provide here,” C-U at Home Executive Director Melissa Courtwright said.
Quarnstrom said the new low-barrier shelter along with C-U at Home’s mid-barrier services could form a comprehensive system of support for people who need it, and other organizations are already discussing opening a high-barrier facility in town.
“We would run the gamut on sheltering for those that are in need in our community and that’s something we’ve never had,” Quarnstrom said.
The new shelter will be able to serve 50 men and 10 women – numbers that are based on historical trends of the community’s need. They’re hoping to open up those beds soon.
“As we get into the winter months, it’s even more important to shelter those that are in need,” Quarnstrom said.
If C-U at Home’s building isn’t selected, Courtwright said they plan to remodel it and provide more semi-private living quarters.
The new shelter will cost $3.9 million over the next two years. The city set aside $1 million of its American Rescue Plan Act money for the project. The township said they’ll need to find more sustainable funding to continue operations after two years.