News Local/State

As Temperatures Fall, Homeless Seek To Get Out Of The Cold


The nighttime sub-zero temperatures that central Illinois is currently experiencing is particularly bad news for the area’s homeless population. Rob Dalhaus says he’s seeing an increase in people coming to the Phoenix Daytime Drop-In Center in Champaign during the day.

“We’re talking about temperatures next week that are going to feel like thirty below”, said Dalhaus. “And that’s causing some folks to kind of come indoors and seek shelter from that cold during the day. And that’s something that we can provide at the Drop-In Center.”

Dalhaus is executive director of C-U At Home, the non-profit group that operates the Phoenix Drop-In Center at 34 E. Green St. in Champaign. He says the center will be expanding its hours for the next week.

“We will be open basically from the time the C-U Men’s Shelter closes in the morning, because it’s an emergency overnight shelter, to the time it reopens again in the evening”, said Dalhaus.

The C-U Men’s Shelter is a program run out of New Covenant Fellowship, (124 W. White St., Champaign) a church not far away from the Phoenix Center.

Dalhaus says the number of men using the shelter is up from last year, to an average of 30 or more each night. That compares to around 20 or so men using the shelter nightly last year. He thinks the bitter cold weather is a factor.

Champaign-Urbana also has an emergency overnight shelter for single women --- Austin’s Place, operated at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Champiagn. Dalhaus says women also use the Phoenix Daytime Drop-In Center, but that a greater share of the “friends without an address” that they see are male.

Besides providing a place to get out of the cold, Dalhaus says the Phoenix Drop-In Center gives homeless people a chance to shower and do laundry, use a phone and the Internet, and get help connecting with services that can get them off the streets.

The Phoenix Drop-In Center and other services of C-U At Home (including transitional housing, transportation services and street outreach) are funded through private donations. The group’s annual fundraising event, “One Winter Night”, is coming up on February 2nd, 2018. Participants raise money by spending 12 hours outdoors in a cardboard box on the streets of downtown Champaign.