Group using social media to put word out about county's more than 500 homeless

Group using social media to put word out about county's more than 500 homeless

CHAMPAIGN — It was raining Monday in Champaign-Urbana, and Melany Jackson had 16 people weighing on her mind.

None of them could go home to stay dry, because none of them has a home.

Some probably dodged the downpour in public buildings, she said, and some probably waited it out under a bridge.

Jackson is the coordinator of the new organization called C-U at Home, which is trying to find housing for some of Champaign County's most vulnerable folks — those facing the perils of winter with no place to call home but the streets.

A survey by 80 volunteers earlier this year identified 549 homeless people in Champaign County, up 10 percent from a 2009 survey. Those people included 360 adults and 165 children.

More than 100 were identified as "most vulnerable," in terms of their risk of dying on the street.

Jackson said most of the homeless identified in the survey have access to a shelter, so she is concentrating her first efforts on 16 "street" homeless people — 14 men and two women — who literally live on the streets.

But so far, not so good. Help hasn't exactly come pouring in, she said.

To help find homes for these 16 men and women, her organization needs donations of housing, furnishings and money for rent, Jackson said.

Also needed are volunteers with a variety of skills and 16 churches — one church to advocate for and "adopt" one homeless person apiece.

"I know there are empty apartments in this town," Jackson said. "I know there are benevolent landlords."

This past Friday, Jackson emailed a call for help to a couple thousand people she knows, asking them to share it with all their contacts on Facebook, Twitter and any other any other way they can think of.

C-U at Home is part of a national campaign launched by Common Ground called 100,000 Homes. It's goal is to find homes for 100,000 of the most vulnerable and long-term homeless people across the nation by July 2013.

Visit for more about C-U at Home and how to help. To contact Jackson, call 819-4569.