The city of Champaign is rethinking how it provides services for the homeless, after a surge in demand during the pandemic. Champaign city council is now considering spending $5-million of its federal covid funds, to open a new year-round low barrier shelter.
“Unfortunately we have a great need for homeless services in our community, and unfortunately that need is not going to be going away,” Melissa Courtwright, Executive Director of CU at Home told WAND News.
Neighbors may not notice changes on the streets of Champaign, but for dozens of neighbors, the pandemic has meant losing their home.
“We’ve been-through the winter months-running on the men’s side at full capacity. So we’ve seen an increase in need,” Courtwright added.
CU at Home operates a men’s and women’s shelter, along with an emergency family shelter. They’re now partnering with the city to develop plans for future shelters.
“We’re meeting with them, we’re telling them things that we learned when operating the low-barrier shelter over the winter. So we’re absolutely in discussion with them,” Courtwright said.
“Right now we tend to have it during the most extreme weather, but making sure that we have year-round shelter available is important,” Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen told WAND News.
Mayor Feinen said there is a demand for a less-restrictive shelter open all year long, to provide a bed for those in an emergency.
“The idea is to allocate funds so that we can get it up and running as quickly as possible,” Mayor Feinen added.
She hopes to begin receiving proposals soon to begin hashing out details of what a new shelter would look like, and how to add beds to existing facilities.
“We had a lot of suggestions actually from the population that we’re trying to serve, as to ways we can make it better,” Mayor Feinen added.
CU at Home said their facilities will remain open to help connect clients with resources, as they transition out of emergency shelter into long term solutions.
“That will leave us plenty of room to work with clients that are working towards sobriety, working towards addressing mental health needs,” Courtwright explained.
WAND News will continue following this developing story.