homesless shelter opening

Russell Mann packs donated items into a humanity pack Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, at C-U at Home in downtown Champaign, which is preparing to open its men’s winter emergency shelter for the season.

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CHAMPAIGN — Just in time for the Halloween snowfall, homeless men and women in Champaign-Urbana were set to have a warm place to spend the night Thursday.

Both local winter emergency centers for the homeless — C-U at Home for men and Austin’s Place for women — were set to officially open for the season tonight.

But because of the snow and temperatures in the area expected to dip into the low 20s overnight, shelter operators scrambled Thursday morning to open one night early in a single location, according to C-U at Home Executive Director Rob Dalhaus III.

On Thursday, both homeless men and women were offered an overnight warming spot at C-U at Home’s building at 70 E. Washington St., C.

Tonight, both that shelter and Austin’s Place — which is inside Champaign’s First United Methodist Church — are set to open as planned in their separate buildings, Dalhaus said.

For the official opening tonight, C-U at Home is expecting 15 to 30 men to be lined up outside when its doors open at 8 p.m., Dalhaus said.

“I talked with a gentleman yesterday, and he was describing sleeping under one of the viaducts, and he spoke about how cold and uncomfortable it was,” Dalhaus said Thursday. “He said he was going to be grateful to have a place that is warm and dry.”

This is expected to be the last winter for the men’s and women’s overnight shelters to operate in different buildings.

Plans are underway for both to operate in separate areas of the C-U at Home building next winter, and then to remain open all year.

For this winter season, Dalhaus said some volunteers are still needed, along with donations of packaged snacks for the people staying at the shelter.

Typically, the men’s shelter picks up more traffic as the winter rolls along in December and January, with an average of 37 a night and a season-high of 58 one night, Dalhaus said.

Donors are also still being sought to help fund the year-round shelter next year through C-U at Home’s “The Hope Givers” campaign, which has a goal of recruiting 600 donors to each give $40 a month.

For this winter season, both the C-U at Home men’s shelter and Austin’s Place are set to remain open through April 15, 2020.