Agency founder seeks volunteers for survey of homeless

CHAMAPIGN — Wanted: At least 100 adults age 18 and older, willing to spare a few hours to help survey the homeless folks of Champaign-Urbana.

What volunteers might gain: an eye-opening of a lifetime.

"This really is an education experience," says Melany Jackson, founder of C-U at Home, which will be conducting the survey. "People doing this will learn a whole lot about homelessness."

Jackson's organization last conducted this survey a year ago and plans to repeat it later this month to identify the most vulnerable homeless out in the community.

Help is needed to survey homeless people, which will require at least some volunteers willing to interview homeless people and hear their stories, she said.

Photographers will also be needed to take pictures of homeless people, with each person's permission.

Those pictures can help find and identify them in the future, Jackson said.

"Finding them again is the first step to helping them, especially with bad phone numbers and addresses that don't exist," she said.

Some volunteers will also be needed to type and analyze the information and for computer assistance, she said.

Volunteers are asked to register to serve for at least a two-hour shift and will be required to participate in training beforehand, from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 21.

Survey work will be done days and evenings Oct. 22 to 24, and data entry will be done days and evenings Oct. 22 to 26, according to the organization.

C-U at Home is helping transition those most vulnerable to dying in the streets to homes of their own.

Last year's survey identified about 550 homeless people in Champaign-Urbana, with about 100 deemed to be most vulnerable. C-U at home has been focusing its attention on helping 20 of those people.

Jackson said she's expecting this year's survey to find about the same number of homeless people, though she could be surprised, and she expects to find most of the same homeless faces.

"We know quite a few of them," she said. "We're expecting to find a few new ones."

C-U at Home needs at least 100 volunteers for the survey, but "150 probably is not too many," Jackson said.

About 15 volunteers have stepped up so far, she said.

Those who can help are asked to register online at http://www.cuathome.us

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