CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Cities across the country have been working to help their homeless population for decades. Recently, many areas have seen an uptick in the number of people who need help.
“Especially since the pandemic, we’ve noticed a lot more people seem to be struggling finding a safe place to be indoors. Sometimes they’re struggling with mental health or substance issues, and there’s not a safe place for them to be,” Kerri Wiman, the city`s neighborhood services director, said.
But a new, safe place could be coming for people facing these struggles in Champaign County.
“We’re hoping that having this available to them throughout the year will help them in coming inside being safe and maybe taking those next steps to a permanent housing solution,” Wiman said.
It’s a big ticket item on the city council agenda Tuesday night, and it comes with an even bigger price tag. More than 5 million dollars.
Part of that would come from the city’s American Rescue Plan Money. Another part would be made available from extra general fund money the city made through its sales tax and income tax.
The need for this comes after a temporary low-barrier shelter opened over the winter between the city and C-U at Home.
C-U at Home said every single night, the men’s low-barrier shelter would hit capacity.
“Honestly, when we saw the numbers of people we were serving and turning away, even our eyes were more open to the needs in our community,” Melissa Courtwright, the C-U at home director, said.
That’s why the city’s neighborhood services department and the city of Champaign Township are now working together to provide a 24-hour 365-day low-barrier shelter. That would run for at least two years and everyone involved said it’s important to help those in need.
“We’re excited to continue to look at ways we can partner not only to serve our niche of the community, but the wider homeless community. Chronic homelessness is such a complicated issue, and it really does take all of us working together to fund a solution for our clients,” Courtwright said.
The council is set to discuss and approve the proposal tonight. The next steps would be for an intergovernmental agreement to be put in place and they hope that will be done by July.
The goal is to have the shelter open before winter.