CHAMPAIGN — Eight months ago, Vern Chounard walked into the first home he could call his own after a longtime life on the streets, but he died a homeless man Monday night.
But he didn't need a home to touch a lot of hearts.
"This man with no home had more families than most of us with a home," said Melany Jackson, founder of C-U at Home, the organization that provided a home for Mr. Chounard eight months ago in a donated rental house.
Mr. Chounard, 50, died at Carle Foundation Hospital at 8:41 p.m. Monday. A preliminary autopsy found the cause of his death was a traumatic brain injury consistent with a fall, according to Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup.
Jackson said Mr. Chounard was found unconscious on University Avenue by an off-duty firefighter and never regained consciousness before he died.
C-U at Home, an organization striving to find homes for Champaign-Urbana's most vulnerable homeless people, chose Mr. Chounard as its first person to place in a home and tried to ease him from street life to home life.
He lasted in the house for about four months, Jackson said. But street life lured him back. He spent two weeks in a six-month rehab program for alcoholism, then left and spent most of the last four months back on the street.
Jackson said she and her organization were preparing to try placing Mr. Chounard in a house again in three weeks, this time with his "street brother," a longtime homeless friend.
Jackson saw Mr. Chounard frequently and last shared a soup kitchen lunch with him last Wednesday, she said. Among his "families" were his own relatives, volunteers at C-U at Home, the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, and people he knew through church and Alcoholics Anonymous, she said.
A memorial service for Mr. Chounard will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at New Covenant Fellowship, 124 W. White St., C.