Homeless agency sets fundraiser for 'desperate' need

Homeless agency sets fundraiser for 'desperate' need

CHAMPAIGN — C-U at Home, the organization working to provide housing for Champaign-Urbana's most vulnerable homeless people, will hold a fundraiser next month.

And the need for participation is "desperate," C-U at Home's founder and leader, Melany Jackson says.

C-U at Home won't receive the funding assistance it requested from United Way of Champaign County that would have helped cover its expenses for the next two years, she said.

"It was very disappointing," she added.

United Way President Lyn Jones said her organization looks for measurable outcomes, and C-U at Home is a new agency. Not only that, she said, it's still in the process of securing its tax-exempt organization status.

Jones said United Way also looks at how many people are helped by its funding assistance, and C-U at Home helps one person at a time rather than many.

Jackson said she hopes to raise $20,000 through C-U at Home's next fundraiser, called One Summer Day, set for 9-11 a.m. June 30.

She plans to share half of what is raised with six other non-profit agencies in the community: the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, the Canteen Run, TIMES Center, Restoration Urban Ministries, Austin's Place and St. Jude Catholic Worker House.

The name of the event is a counterpart to C-U at Home's winter fundraiser, One Winter Night, in which public officials and others slept in boxes downtown to raise awareness about homelessness and raise money for the organization.

The summer event will be a fundraising walk at Champaign's Hessel Park, and participants can walk individually or in teams.

The first 100 people to sign up will be given grocery carts to push as they walk, Jackson said. Others to sign up are asked to bring strollers or wagons to or wear empty backpacks.

Walkers will wear pedometers and will collect pledges in advance, raising money based on the number of steps they take.

The public will be asked to donate items to place in the grocery carts, such as socks, razors, deodorant, fresh produce and laundry detergent, to shared by the seven benefiting agencies.

C-U at Home has placed three homeless residents in homes to date, but one is back on the streets.

The first, Vern Chounard, was the subject of much publicity when he moved into a donated rental house. But he found it tough giving up alcohol and street life. He eventually entered an alcohol-treatment program in Springfield and left after two-and-a-half weeks, and is now back on the streets, Jackson said.

Another formerly homeless resident is living in the same house and doing well, and the organization has placed a third homeless man in another rental house that has been donated rent-free for a year, she said.

Jackson also says her group hasn't given up on Chounard and would give him another chance.

"We're not finished yet, by any means," she adds.

Money raised by her organization helps pay for rent and utilities at one house and utilities at another and other expenses.

For more information about One Summer Day and to register online, see http://www.cuathome.us

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tattoo58 wrote on May 18, 2012 at 9:05 am

And to think I have to work for my money...and make responsible decisions......

EL YATIRI wrote on May 22, 2012 at 2:05 am
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Many of the homeless are severely mentally ill, and are too impaired to make responsible decisions. You are fortunate to be healthy enough to work and have a good job.  Comments like yours remind me of Mr Scrooge.

laure258 wrote on May 18, 2012 at 10:05 am

And to think that we are all able to deal with the issues of being human in the same fashion and with the same success is idealistic and unreal.

Those who are working hard for their position in life deserve recognition and certainly that recognition is definitely not always given.  However, why should your own personal success or acheivements lead you berate others' efforts to reach out to those who may be in need.  I imagine that there are very few of us who have made it to this point without some assistance in one form or another, be it monitary or otherwise. 

In order to help our society as a whole individual efforts must be made.  So while you may see it unneccessary to donate your time or money, there certainly is no need to criticize the decisions of others to do so.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 18, 2012 at 11:05 am

laure258; Well said. Thank you.

prideCU wrote on May 18, 2012 at 11:05 am

Very, very well said, laure! How arrogant people are to even think the life they have is going to always be stable and that they will never need help of others in time of need! How arrogant to judge those who have need without even knowing where they came from in life!

C-U Townie wrote on May 18, 2012 at 7:05 pm

I do believe in helping others. I have worked and volunteered for many organizations, as well as donated money to several this year. However, I also believe in non-profits being held to the same legal and ethical standards for handling money that other businesses are expected to meet. The issue that has been raised regarding C-U at Home is regarding the financial direction of the funds received. As Ms. Jackson has so incessantly told others the fundraiser that was held downtown in February raised over $25,000. She is now asking for another $20,000. Her original "board" agreed that she would not be paid until the organization a) became an official non-profit and b) became stable. The only exception would be for her to possibly receive a stipend. To date there are no paid staff for these very reasons. Futhermore, the individuals are living in rent-free housing. The concern is where the $25,000 has gone to from the first fundraiser, and where the money will go from the next fundraiser. $40,000+ is a lot of money for a very new organization. Especially one that has not implemented a complete structure for how to efficiently and appropriately treat those they have housed. Case and point, the outcome of the first individual they housed.

I think Ms. Jackson should reassure her donors that the money is being used wisely. Better yet, having a statement issued from the organization that is managing her funds: Community Foundation of East Central Illinois. I would like to hear how the money has been spent and will be spent. I would appreciate a follow up by the News-Gazette to this story that focuses on answering those questions. I think it would also encourage past and future donors to give to the cause if they know what the plans are for using funding it has received and will receive. As of right now it is a bit sketchy. Have all they managed to do is provide a roof over the clients' heads?

When dealing with the homeless population there are a great many services that need to be included in the holistic approach to treating them. Is there a process in place for clients to apply for services such as SNAP Benefits, healthcare (like Carle Community Cares), or securing a bus pass for the individuals? Those are low-end costs... so if they are being used then the question needs to be posed again. How is money being spent? An answer really is needed. Otherwise it sounds a bit confusing as to why an organization needs $40k right now when not much is in place and not much has been accomplished. 

EL YATIRI wrote on May 22, 2012 at 2:05 am
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Very good points from everyone except for the first hater post.

I must agree that the money shouldn't be wasted as it was with the first home recipient.  That man was still drinking and the odds were that he would fail.  He made a good poster boy for a while, but now it's a PR disaster.  Why keep giving money if it will not be used wisely?

I would like to know the criteria for selecting an individual with rehabilitation potential.  Providing a severely active alcoholic or addict a nice home is wasteful and foolish, they need treatment first to benefit from anything.

Good intentions aren't enough.  The Charity must be accountable for how it spends donations.