CHAMPAIGN — Donations for One Winter Night, an event that had 31 people sleeping outside in cardboard boxes in downtown Champaign to raise money for housing the homeless, have reached about $26,695.
The Feb. 3 event was organized by C-U at Home, an organization working to find housing for more than a dozen homeless people considered most vulnerable to dying in the street.
Melany Jackson, the organization's founder, said the money raised will go toward rent and utilities for the first person C-U at Home has placed in a rental house, Vern Chounard.
A 50-year-old former restaurant cook who was homeless eight of the past 11 years, Chounard moved into the house just before Christmas.
The landlords donated the use of the house rent-free through the end of March, but C-U at Home has to pay the utilities and the rent after March until Chounard is able to support himself.
Jackson said the money raised should cover those costs through the end of the year, and some will also be saved to help cover the cost of housing the next homeless people placed in apartments or houses.
Jackson said at least 200 people volunteered for the fundraiser, and she considers it a success.
She has been asking landlords to donate vacant housing spaces for the homeless, but only the owners of Chounard's small rental house in Champaign have come forward so far.
A rough estimate of what it costs to house one homeless person is $1,500 per month, she said.