News Local/State

Men’s Overnight Shelter Opens In Champaign-Urbana For 2nd Winter

Rev. Sheryl Palmer at the C-U Men's Shelter.

C-U Men's Shelter Board Director, the Rev. Sheryl Palmer, stands in the space at New Covenant Fellowship that is used as the shelter space this winter. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

As winter approaches, emergency shelters are opening in Champaign-Urbana. An overnight shelter for men was scheduled to open Monday night, November 20, at New Covenant Fellowship in downtown Champaign.

This is the second winter for the Champaign-Urbana Men’s Shelter. Last winter, the shelter housed an average of 22 men each night, and over 100 individual men throughout the winter.

Shelter Board Director, the Reverend Sheryl Palmer, says the shelter housed both short-term and long-term homeless men, but that only a few  have stayed homeless by choice.

“Most of them are just in difficult situations, maybe dealing with addiction or mental illness”, said Palmer of the guests that she always refers to as gentlemen. “And then we also had some transient folks that are coming through, or just having a short-term piece of bad luck.”

Palmer, the senior pastor at Faith United Methodist Church in Champaign, says the shelter provides the men with a warm and supervised place to sleep for the night. After being hosted by two different churches last winter (one for weeknights, the other for weekends), the C-U Men’s Shelter is located this winter at  a single location, New Covenant Fellowship at 124 W. White Street in downtown Champaign, in a space that can hold up to thirty men.

“It’s one big room, and they each have a mat with sheets and blankets and pillows,” said Palmer of the shelter space, which was being set up on Monday. “We will be providing snacks, we don’t provide a meal… but it’s a warm, safe place with hired staff. That’s one of our major expenses, because we do not restrict gentlemen from coming in.”

Palmer says that means they allow men to use the shelter who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, although they can’t use them in the shelter itself.

The C-U Men’s Shelter is paid for with both public funds, private donations, and contributions from local Rotary clubs and houses of worship. Meanwhile, an overnight women’s shelter, Austin’s Place, will open for the winter on December 15 at First United Methodist Church in downtown Champaign.