Safe Haven Tent Community Renews Plea to Champaign Council, As It Struggles to Find a Home
The Safe Haven tent community says it's struggling to find a place to stay, since being ordered to leave the St. Jude Catholic Worker House grounds in Champaign.
The group of about 10 to 15 homeless men and women living in tents were told to leave an RV park near Mahomet. They were given shelter --- indoors --- at a church in Champaign, but only for two nights.
Safe Haven member Jesse Masengale told the Champaign City Council Tuesday night that the situation looks grim.
"We are under crisis right now", said Masengale. "Each night, for 15 people, we're worried about where we're going to go."
Masengale and other Safe Haven organizers and supporters told Champaign council members that a tent community is a viable and low-cost option to help alleviate the city's homeless problem --- but that zoning laws need to be changed to allow them to continue. Organizer Abby Harmon asked the council to consider their proposal to allow tent cities to exist in Champaign under certain conditions. She says they've been meeting with individual council members to explain the details.
In the meantime, Safe Haven is asking the city for temporary leniency to let them pitch camp outdoors. Harmon says the ban on living in tents ---and the media attention they've received --- has scared away people and churches who might have helped them.
But Harmon says Safe Haven members are determined to stay together. She says the members feel that being homeless together is safer for them than each of them facing homelessness on their own.