Community Services Are in Short Supply for Champaign’s Homeless This Winter

January 08, 2015
 
Jeff Thomas (Left) and Nick Wright (Right) come in from the cold to sleep at the Phoenix.

Jeff Thomas (Left) and Nick Wright (Right) come in from the cold to sleep at the Phoenix.

(Photo: Tiffany Jolley)

Nick Wright is spending his first winter without a home. Wright is a retired and lost his apartment last year. “I was a painter for 25 years," says Wright, "My retirement check puts food on the table, gives me something to eat." But there's not enough money left for rent. 

So on Wednesday afternoon, Wright is at the Phoenix, a drop in center in Champaign that's part of C-U at Home, an organization that offers services to the homeless.  The Phoenix provides shelter during the day, and gives people access to computers, telephones and an address to collect mail. Temperatures on this night are expected to drop well below zero.

Wright has been sleeping on a couch in the corner of the room, waiting to find out where he'll spend the night.

“I’ll stay here until they take us to a shelter tonight, but I don’t know which one. Last night it was the Salvation Army,” said Wright.

Homelessness increased slightly last year in Champaign County, and nearly half of those without shelter were veterans, children and victims of domestic violence according to a survey by the Champaign County Continuum of Care.

Melany Jackson is the Executive Director of C-U at Home, and says the services available don’t meet the needs of the homeless community. 

With a lack of resources, centers like the Phoenix struggle to stay open. C-U at Home does not receive any funding from the state. 

“We’re dependent on the community to support us. Churches, businesses, individuals, our entire organization is funded by donations,” said Jackson.

A small bell on the door of the Phoenix rings as people come in looking for shelter from the cold, and by early afternoon the community area starts to fill up. Paul Gallagher helps manage the Phoenix, and says the demand for services in the winter far outweighs the capacity that many shelters have to offer. 

“We’ve been referring people to Restoration Ministries, the TIMES Center and Courage Connection, and the Courage Connection and the TIMES Center have had no availabilities, so you’re looking at long waiting lists there. It makes it not an option for a lot of folks on the street,” said Gallagher.

On nights with sub-zero temperatures, a handful of transitional shelters in the area also operate as emergency shelters. They offer a short-term place for some people to sleep, as long as the temperature is at zero degrees or below.

"Once it goes above that temperature and it’s no longer available, so all the people accessing it now they won’t have any place to go after that,” says Gallagher, "I mean it’s life threatening. The folks living out on the streets understand very intimately that they could die.”

The next few days will bring slightly warmer weather to Champaign-Urbana, but many people will continue to face long nights in the cold.

Story source: WILL

00:00:00
Nick right is spending his first winter without a home. Wright is retired and lost his apartment last year paid over twenty five years.

00:00:08
I get my little retirement check every month puts food on the table gives you something to eat but there’s not enough money left for rent.

00:00:16
So on Wednesday afternoon Nick is at the Phoenix a drop in centre in Champaign that’s part of C-U at home an organization that offers services to the homeless. The Phoenix provide shelter during the day and gives people access to computers telephones and an address to collect mail. Temperatures on this night are expected to drop well below zero.

00:00:34
Wright’s been sleeping on a couch in the corner of the room waiting to find out where he will spend the night here they’ll take us to a shelter later tonight where you are doing so as normal.

00:00:46
Homelessness increased slightly last year in Champaign County and nearly half of those without shelter were veterans children and victims of domestic violence according to a survey by the Champaign County continuum of care. Melanie Jackson is the executive director of C-U at Home and says the service is available don’t meet the needs of the homeless community.

00:01:04
We don’t have three hundred people pushing a grocery cart and you know sleeping in a tent. There are many more adults and children who are categorized as homeless than most people would think it’s pretty invisible in our community with a lack of resources.

00:01:23
Centers like the phoenix struggle to stay open and see you at home does not receive any funding from the state.

00:01:28
But we’re dependent on the community to support us. Churches businesses individuals our whole organization is funded entirely through donations.

00:01:38
A small bell on the door of the Phoenix rings as people come in looking for shelter from the cold. And by early afternoon the community area starts to fill up. Paul Gallagher helps manage the Phoenix and says the demand for services in the winter far outweighs the capacity that many shelters have to offer.

00:01:53
We’ve been referring folks to Restoration Urban Ministries, the Time Center and Courage Connections and the courage connections and the time Center . Have had no openings and no availability so you’re looking at long waiting lists there.

00:02:09

You know it makes it not an option for a lot of folks that are on the street on nights with subzero temperatures a handful of transitional shelters in the area also operate as emergency shelters. They offer a short term place for some people to sleep at least for now.

00:02:24
M3
It’s going to last just as long as the temperature is at zero. Once it goes above that then the temporary shelter is no longer available. So those folks that are accessing it and using it now they won’t won’t have any place to go after that. I mean it’s life threatening. You know the folks that are living on the streets understand very intimately that they could die the next few days will bring slightly warmer weather to Champaign Urbana but many will continue to spend long nights in the cold.

00:02:55
I’m Tiffany Jolley Illinois Public Media.