Homeless man who touched many hearts dies after fall

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.

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rsp wrote on August 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Moving into a home after being homeless is traumatic. Your life feels out of control and it is something you can't explain to the people around you. They give you expectations and promises of how wonderful it will be and meanwhile you feel like you are drowning. It doesn't mean they shouldn't try, it just means they should realize what they are up against. Every time we loose someone it's a tragedy.

EL YATIRI wrote on August 17, 2012 at 1:08 am
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Vern died of alcoholism.  That is why he fell on the street hitting his head so hard.  

We need better treatment for the severe alcoholic,  For now after "detox" and a variable stay in rehab, alcoholics are sent to AA where they are told to pray to god for relief.

Vern believed in god.  His faith was unshakable, even though it did him little good.  Praying is OK, but how about some real research into effective treatment for alcoholism and mental illness?