CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)– At night C-U at Home opens its doors to give people without a roof over their head a safe place to rest. Now there’s been a change to its service. People who enter must be sober to use their overnight shelter.
“It’s not easy to look someone in the face even if you’re full and say we’re full. We can’t take you. That’s horrible to have to do,” said Jennifer Burnett, former Austin’s Place Women’s Shelter coordinator. She says there was a reason for the change.
“There were a lot of conflicts with people coming in extraordinarily intoxicated or on drugs and it caused a lot of fights,” said Burnett, “Our purpose was to house individuals and get them into housing, so the people who were coming in intoxicated or drugged were causing that to be difficult for people who were coming in not under the influence.”
However, there’s some concern about the decision. Claudia Lenhoff is the Executive Director for Champaign County Health Care Consumers. She says a significant portion of their clients are homeless and turn to them for help.
“Normally we would be referring them to C-U at Home and now we’re not sure what to do with them, and the ones that are on the street are getting sicker. They are having problems being victimized by crime, having their possesions stolen or getting beat up. None of this helps the addiction issues,” said Lennhoff.
They say more must be done. “Now by changing their policy, they’re drastically reducing the number of clients they will be able to serve. Then the rest of the community, social services agencies have to pick up the pieces and try to figure out how to help these individuals,” said Lennhoff.
“CU at Home in and of itself can’t be the answers to all the problems. They can’t fix all the problems in town. They don’t have all the resources,” said Burnett.
Due to the safety issues which resulted in the difficult decision to pause operations earlier this year, new and more strict policies were implemented. When we returned from the pause, the policies implemented were rigid in order to regain and maintain safety for all, but we have been evaluating these policies since our reopening. Our goal is to continue to develop our staff and our programming while simultaneously working with our community partners and guests to revise these policies based on the needs of our guests and our community while still providing for the safety and well-being of all involved.Maggie Johnson, Chair, CU at Home Board of Directors