News Local/State

State Budget Impasse Just One Factor In Loss Of Homeless Beds

Rosecrance sign.

Rosecrance owns and operates the TIMES Center in downtown Champaign, which discontinued operation of emergency beds for homeless men earlier this year. Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Media

An Urbana woman has started a petition to reinstate the emergency shelter beds for homeless men at the TIMES Center in downtown Champaign.

Sandra Ahten says because the TIMES Center was opened in 2000 to serve as an emergency homeless shelter, it should be used for that purpose.

"There was a lot of work that went into figuring out where it should be located," Ahten said, "with the impact studies, all of that was done."

About $1.1 million from federal, state, and local taxes were used to build the facility, which opened in 2000.  The remainder of the initial funding for the $1.4 million TIMES Center came from private donations.

Ahten plans to present her petition to the Champaign and Urbana city councils, and the Champaign County Board.

Hear much more from Sandra Ahten in the interview below:

But Sheila Ferguson, executive director of Rosecrance Champaign-Urbana, the non-profit that owns and operates the TIMES Center, says the facility is fully occupied with two other programs: a transitional program for 20 homeless men who are working toward self-sufficiency, and a crisis stabilization unit for people experiencing a mental health emergency.

Ferguson says the loss of state funding was the final blow for the operation of the emergency beds at the TIMES Center, but that the facility had been operating at a "significant" loss for several years, in part because of a change in how the federal government funds homeless services.

"We're not alone.  This is a change too in the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) definition of homelessness and how they fund agencies for shelter," Ferguson said.  "They really are moving toward a 'housing first' or transitional housing model, and that's for future funding."

Ferguson says that because of those funding changes, Rosecrance has shifted its focus from emergency shelter to transitional programs like the one currently in place at the TIMES Center.  She says that facility is no longer available to serve as an emergency shelter for homeless men.

She says that Rosecrance is working with other service providers to the homeless in Champaign-Urbana to try to find a new location for an emergency shelter.

Hear much more from Sheila Ferguson in the interview below.

In addition to the 50 emergency shelter beds at the TIMES Center that are no longer available, the Salvation Army in Champaign closed it's Stepping Stones Shelter in March because of lack of funding.  That facility offered 45 emergency shelter beds.

Click here to hear an interview with C-U at Home's Melany Jackson, about the work being done to open a new emergency shelter.