United Way aiming to launch family shelter
URBANA — An Urbana church will house the United Way of Champaign's new emergency family shelter if final details can be worked out with the city, a United Way official says.
In preparation for the Dec. 1 opening of the shelter, the United Way has launched a bedding drive this week to help stock the new shelter with sheets, towels, pillows and blankets.
The location of the shelter hasn't been disclosed, but Beverley Baker, the United Way's director of community impact, said an Urbana church is the target site and the identity of the church is being kept confidential pending final details being worked out with the city.
Mike Monson, chief of staff to Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, said the city isn't comfortable disclosing the church's identity yet, until some details — including an upcoming inspection and a potential zoning matter — are resolved.
"It looks promising," he said. "It could open as soon as December or January."
Baker said volunteers will be needed for the shelter, to help with meals and assist the United Way staff on overnight stays, she said.
"We'll be coming to the community for volunteers," she said.
Baker says this shelter is going to be a one-year pilot program intended to provide temporary shelter to homeless families.
A case worker will triage the needs and goals of those arriving, and help connect them to the right services in the community, she said.
Mary Noel, assistant director of resource development at the United Way, said the shelter is for up to 20 people — including single women, women with children and couples with children under age 18 — for up to two weeks.
Other shelters in the community are available for single men, she said.
"The biggest gap that we found is a mother and father can't generally stay together," she added.
Baker said every family's situation will be different, but there will be much collaboration among existing services to connect those families to what they need.
"We've excited," she said.
Baker said the United Way knows it will be making a unique request of volunteers to come and spend a night. Nobody will have to be up all night, she said. Volunteers will also get to sleep along with the families.
In addition to bedding donations, financial contributions to this venture are also welcome, Baker said.
The United Way is working with faith communities to launch this shelter, she said, but "it's a very bare bones budget at this point."
For the bedding drive, donations of new or gently used twin size sheets, light-weight blankets, light-weight towels, pillows, travel pillows and pillowcases are needed.
"We're looking for lightweight items because pretty much every night, they'll need to be washed," Noel said.
Bedding donations can be brought to drop boxes through Oct. 26 at the following locations:
— Busey Bank locations in Savoy, downtown Urbana, downtown Champaign and Kirby and Prospect in Champaign.
— Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, 303 W. Kirby Ave., C.
— United Way of Champaign County, 404 W. Church St., C.
— The ARC at the University of Illinois, 201 E. Peabody Drive, C.