United Way of Champaign County is working with the Council of Service Providers to the Homeless to address the lack of emergency shelter options for intact families. Currently, there are no options for a mother with a male child over age 14, a father with children of any age, or a father and mother with children of any age to stay together in a shelter. When a family is in crisis and already struggling to exist with limited means the stress of separating a family only complicates an already difficult situation.
The Regional Office of Education has identified over 300 homeless school-aged youth each school year for the last 4 years in Champaign County. These are families living on the streets, in a car, at the park, in shelters or precariously housed with a family member or friend which could end at any time. This is only part of the need. We know there are children not identified in the schools and families with only very young children that also wouldn’t be included in this count.
UWCC and the CSPH have indentified some program models we feel might be replicated. This summer, UWCC is talking with representatives of the faith community to determine the role churches and church volunteers could play in addressing this need. We are also working with local human service agencies to determine professional case management and support services for the families that will eventually utilize the shelter. The goal is to provide triage: get them off the street, identify current challenges facing the family, develop strategies to address highest priorities, seek transitional or permanent housing options and move the family on to a stable environment.
If you are interested in learning more, would like to volunteer in some way or have property that might be used to help this effort please contact Beverley Baker, Director of Community Impact at 352-5151 or Beverley@uwayhelps.org