Monday, February 11 2013, 10:58 PM CST
Emergency Family Shelter Opens
CHAMPAIGN-- Beverley Baker of the Champaign County United Way says, "This is a pilot project to really gauge the true need. We know through other service providers that there are often calls and requests for shelter for families. Right now there are not any facilities that can take on families on an emergency basis."
Earlier this month, the United Way, in partnership with several local organizations, opened the first emergency housing shelter in the county that assists families. For local schools, the service is invaluable. Cheryl Camacho, Director of Magnet Programs for Unit 4, says, "We have a range of families who identify as homeless. We have some that are staying with family members, they don't have a lease or a permanent place. We also have some families on the opposite end of the spectrum who have no shelter, who are sleeping in cars."
Baker says, "We know through our work with the Regional Office of Education, they estimate about 300 school-age youth in Champaign County each year. And that's just school age." Most shelters in the area cater only to adults or single mothers, and families are usually split up. Baker adds, "The need for emergency shelters for families has been a topic of concern and conversation at that table for quite some time. It was determined in the past year that United Way and the council would make it a priority."
The new facility will keep children with their parents while assigning case managers to help each family get back on their feet. The emergency program will last for one year, at which point the United Way will assess the long-term need.
Camacho says, "We don't have the capacity to provide housing so we do as much as we can. We link families with those community agencies that can provide those services. To smooth out the transition so they don't have to bounce from place to place."
Adam Rife reporting