CHAMPAIGN — A local non-profit organization is moving ahead with three initiatives to help the homeless in Champaign-Urbana.
C-U at Home's Executive Director Melany Jackson says all three projects — a daytime drop-in center, an addiction recovery house and one house for a homeless family — will be funded with the just over $45,000 raised by One Winter Night, the fund-raiser last month in which people slept outside in boxes in downtown Champaign.
A location search is still underway for the daytime drop-in center, to be housed in an existing building in the downtown Champaign area.
This is where most of the homeless already congregate, Jackson says.
"Let's give them a place to be," she urges.
C-U at Home intends for the center to be more than a place for homeless folks to escape the summer heat and the winter cold.
The organization will also relocate there and supply the homeless dropping by with case management services and referrals to overnight shelters and other needed services, Jackson said.
This shelter can also be a place for the homeless to receive mail and personal phone messages, which would help in job searches, she said.
Jackson sees this center as a place to build relationships with the homeless and work on helping them achieve small victories in their lives, she said.
"This is an extension of my original vision that God laid on my heart," she said.
City Planning and Development Director Bruce Knight says as far as he's concerned, providing a place for the homeless to go wouldn't be a negative for the city because it's needed. And providing this shelter for homeless people downtown would be appropriate, because "that's where the need is," he said.
"Right now, you see them huddled in the corners trying to keep warm," Knight said.
Two other C-U at Home projects — the recovery center and one house for a homeless family — are close to opening soon.
In recent months, the organization has pared down the number of houses from four to two. Making one of the remaining ones a recovery center makes sense, based on the organization's experience in housing homeless men and helping them secure addiction treatment services, Jackson said.
"Over the last couple of years, so many of the folks we have reached out to assist have an addiction problem that is directly contributing to their homelessness," she said.
The recovery center will be a two-bedroom house in Champaign, the location of which will be kept confidential for the privacy of the residents.
It will provide a home for up to three drug or alcohol addicts who have graduated from a rehabilitation program and need a supportive living environment before living on their own. It will also provide a bed for a house leader — one is still being sought — who has been sober for at least two years to serve as a role model for the other residents.
C-U at Home will encourage residents to commit to six months to one year of residency, to seek employment to cover part of their living expenses and to save money for when they move out, Jackson said.
C-U at Home's family home is undergoing remodeling by volunteers, and will be ready in April to provide housing for a single parent or married couple with dependents, Jackson said.
3 things to know about C-U at Home
1. It was founded in 2011 by Executive Director Melany Jackson, who was inspired by a book entitled "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream," by David Platt.
2. The IRS approved C-U at Home as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization in late spring 2013, retroactive to its incorporation date.
3. Its other major fund-raiser of the year, One Summer Day, will be held this year on June 28 at Champaign's Hessel Park.