Last Friday, students at the University of Illinois slept outside to raise awareness about homelessness. It was a fun event that contrasts with a grim reality. Champaign-Urbana has one of the state's largest rates of homelessness, and last week was marked by bitter low temperatures. An interview with Melany Jackson, a homelessness advocate who says we don't have enough shelter space. Also, Kerri Spear, who runs the homeless count for Champaign-Urbana. She outlines some the challenges of finding all of the homeless in town - an initiative that could help us provide better services for those living outside.
A faith-based group in Champaign that is trying to find housing for the area's most vulnerable homeless residents has completed its first successful match.
C-U At Home connected Vernon Chounard to a two-bedroom rental home - his first permanent home since 2000.
The group will pay for utilities while the property owners - Deana and Luke Hammock - will forgo the $500 monthly rent until April.
Chounard moved in Tuesday afternoon during a public housewarming party, and he said that having a place to live means everything.
"I don't have to worry about waking up soaking wet or freezing or having a place to lay my head," Chounard said.
Chounard had lived on the streets for the last decade.
"I ain't going to lie, I'm an alcoholic," he said. "But I'm working on that too."
Deana Hammock said she and her husband bought the house initially to use as part of their church ministry. It has been vacant for several months.
"We are called to share what we have," Hammock said. "There are so many places out there that are vacant right now, it's fairly easy for other landlords to do something."
C-U At Home is part of a nationwide campaign that aims to house 100,000 vulnerable homeless people within the next two years. John Smith of C-U At Home said that Chounard is one of the nearly 12,000 homeless people in the country to find a home in the past year.