News Local/State

Phoenix Drop-In Center Expands Hours For Homeless During Cold Weather

Entrance to the Phoenix Drop-In Center and C-U At Home offices in Champaign.

Entrance to C-U At Home offices and the Phoenix Drop-In Center, in the former TIMES Center building in Champaign. The building also houses the C-U Men's Shelter, providing nighttime emergency shelter during the winter. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

With subzero temperatures in the weather forecast, an agency serving the homeless in Champaign-Urbana is gearing up to offer daytime shelter from the cold. The Phoenix Drop-In Center in Champaign is expanding its hours this week to provide a place for people who are homeless to get warm.

The center, operated by C-U At Home, is usually open on afternoons, Tuesday through Friday. But executive director Rob Dalhaus III says they are keeping the center open from 8 AM to 8 PM, this week. 

“We’re going to be open for emergency warming hours, starting when the C-U Men’s emergency shelter closes in the morning, until they reopen in the evening,” said Dalhaus.

The first period of expanded hours were held during the cold snap of January 19-21. This latest stretch of all-day hours began last Saturday, January 26th.  

The Phoenix Center and the C-U Men’s Shelter are both located in the former TIMES Center building at 70 E. Washington Street (the corner of Washington and Market) in Champaign. First United Methodist Church of Champaign and other churches have been running the Men’s Emergency Shelter for the past few years, but Dalhaus says C-U At Home will take over its operations next winter.

Dalahus says they’re also coordinating the Phoenix Center’s expanded daytime hours with Austin’s Place, Champaign-Urbana’s emergency shelter for women.

The emergency shelters operate only at night, and Dalhaus says when cold weather comes, the Phoenix Center sees an increase in visitors who need a warm refuge during the day.

“We certainly see an increase of folks coming through the doors, just because it’s a warm place to go,” said Dalhaus. “There are other places in the community, such as the library or some churches that are open during that time. But we definitely see an increase in those folks.”

The coldest daytime temperatures are expected on Wednesday, when temperatures are forecast to stay below zero all day and overnight. But Dalhaus says they’ll keep the expanded hours going through Saturday, Feb. 2nd. That will coincide with C-U At Home’s annual One Winter Night community awareness and fundraising event, scheduled for Friday night, February 1st.

C-U At Home put out a call for volunteers to help staff the Phoenix Center during its expanded hours this week. Dalhaus they’ve gotten a good response, but could use additional help. He says people interested in volunteering can contact the group’s volunteer coordinator at

In addition, state government officials are opening Illinois Human Services offices at 705 North Country Fair Drive and 1307 North Mattis Avenue in Champaign as warming centers for the public.

Meanwhile, closures have been announced due to cold weather for some public buildings in Champaign-Urbana on Wednesday. They include the Champaign County Courthouse, Brookens Center and other county buildings. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has also canceled its services for Wednesday at its locations in Champaign, Rantoul and Watseka.