Community Essentials

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Food. Water. Housing. Safety. Healthcare. Clothing. Identification. Access to technology.

These are the critical things people need to thrive in our world today. With many of our community's households struggling to make ends meet, our community must have a strong safety net. Together we can prevent crisis, provide stability, and support those navigating a complex social service system.



Every person in our community deserves the opportunity to thrive.

To get there, we must strengthen the safety net of services that support and lift up our neighbors. At various times in our life, every single one of us has needed the support of others.

United Way has always helped the most vulnerable people meet their basic needs and improve their health, education, and financial stability. However, the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated that there was limited capacity and high demand for services that deliver these crucial necessities.

Our Community Essentials work helps people meet their physical needs - food, water, shelter, healthcare - as well as providing assistance navigating the often complex human service systems. It also recognizes that access to technology is not a luxury, it's a necessity to apply for a job, pay bills, connect with healthcare and education, and so much more.

We recognize that many of our neighbors who are ALICE families, low-wage workers, people of color, LGBTQA+ individuals, and those with disabilities need increased access to services. Our grants support programs that are working to increase access to services and actively practice nondiscrimination.

We have programs and partners who are making this possible and we need your support to make sure even more people get the help they need. 

Community Concern

United Way asked community members to rank the top needs or issues facing our community. Basic Needs (Ability to pay for food, clothing and necessities) was ranked as the second-highest community concern, and access to affordable healthcare ranked fifth. For people of color, Basic Needs and Access to Affordable Healthcare were tied for the top community concern. 

Financial Insecurity

Champaign County has a high rate of financial insecurity. In total, 44% of our neighbors struggle to afford basic household essentials. This includes two groups:

  • 24% of Champaign County households are ALICE - Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. They earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford basic household essentials or save for the future. They are walking a financial tightrope - one missed paycheck away from a financial crisis.
  • 20% of our households earn less than the Federal Poverty Level.

Median Household and Family Income

  United States Illinois Champaign County
Median Household Income $55,322 $59,196 $48,899

Learn more.

Food Insecurity

Financial insecurity leads to difficult choices - can we pay rent or buy food? Food insecurity had been on a decline, falling to 11% in 2019, down from 15% in 2017. Unfortunately, the economic instability brought on by the COVID pandemic has caused a rise in food insecurity. Feeding America projects that 12.2% of area households were food insecure in 2021.

Local services are critical, as they support families who may struggle but do not qualify for SNAP. Local programs can also provide food that meets people's nutritional and cultural needs. Continued support of local food services is critical to keep lowering this datapoint.


Housing and Homelessness

In the long-term, financial insecurity can lead to housing instability. In the past 12 months (February 1, 2022 to February 1, 2023) 50% of all calls to Champaign County's 211 Help Center were for housing and shelter. An additional 8.3% reached out for help with utility bills.

In the past 12 months, our 211 Help Center made 726 referrals to local homeless shelters.



Every person deserves to live in a safe community, but the safety data for Champaign County is highly troubling. In 2018, Champaign County had a rate of 453.85 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. This is higher than the state rate of 395.75. (Source) There were 341 confirmed shooting incidents in 2021. (Source) And 510 area children are currently in substitute care after experiencing abuse or neglect.

Health and Healthcare

Sexually transmitted infections, food insecurity, and adult smoking are all higher in Champaign County than the state of Illinois overall.

According to the 2019 County Health Rankings, the obesity rate in Champaign County is up to 31% from 26% in 2015. Our community's rate of access to exercise opportunities is lower than the state of Illinois, meaning fewer of our residents have reasonable access to recreation.

From the Champaign County Community Health Plan: "Behavioral health issues continue to be an issue across the county. Lack of resources, funding, and stigma contribute to the issue in Champaign County. According to County Health Rankings the ratio of mental health providers per 100,000 has improved drastically over the past six years, moving from 2055:1 in 2010 to 444:1 in 2019. According to the CDC, National Vital Statistics System, the Champaign County suicide rate in 2018 was 12.9 per 100,000 which is higher than the state of Illinois rate of 10.8 but lower than the national rate of 13.4. According to the death certificate data compiled by Vital Records at Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, there were 262 drug-related deaths for the five-year period 2015-2019. Of these deaths, 198 were residents of Champaign County. Opiates were the leading cause of drug-related deaths in Champaign County." (Source)

Access to Technology

Our community played a critical role in the creation of the internet and the first web browser - and 98.9% of Champaign County's urban residents can get fixed high speed internet service in their home. Unfortunately, not all families can afford that service.

Outside our major cities, only 52.5% of rural residents can access fixed high speed internet at home - lower than the state's average. This means many of our rural residents rely on mobile devices for internet access.

United Way's ALICE report states that the average family needs to budget $75 per month to access the internet. (Source) This is only for access and does not include the cost to purchase devices.

With job applications, banking, school and other critical resources increasingly moving online, it is important that everyone, regardless of where they live, has access to technology. (Source)

Navigating Complex Systems

The human service sector can be challenging to navigate, especially for those in crisis. United Way 211 answered 3,196 calls for assistance in 2021, providing guidance and answers. (Source)

Champaign County is home to an estimated 25,000 immigrants. Providing translation and guided assistance is crucial for people to be welcomed into our community and access the services they need.

Working together to help people meet their needs

United Way is committed to providing long-term support for Community Essentials. In 2022, United Way awarded $663,000 in grants to local programs to provide essential support across the community. Each grant program is working towards one of the following Goals:

  • Help people meet their physical needs
  • Assist people with accessing and navigating complex human service systems

Our Strategy

The framework for Community Essentials ensures we can support our most vulnerable neighbors experiencing the hardest of times through an efficient and effective safety net of services with minimal to no barriers.

Special Projects in Community Essentials

211 - Get Connected, Get Help

Emergency Shelter for Families

Farmers Feeding Families

FY23 Grant Partnerships

211 - Get Connected, Get Help

The most comprehensive source of information about local resources and services. Real people answer the phone and connect callers to expert, caring help 24/7/365. Also offered via text.

A program of PATH Crisis


Affordable Health Care for Low-Income, Uninsured Residents 

Provides high-quality, affordable primary care services to low-income, un/underinsured and underserved residents of Champaign County

A program of Promise Healthcare


Assistance with Identification and Documents

A core group of volunteers assist guests in funding and acquiring birth certificates, state identification cards, and bus passes; provide assistance in completing Link card applications; help guests access appropriate social service agencies; offer emergency assistance; and provide homeless certifications.

A program of Daily Bread Soup Kitchen


Champaign County Home Delivered Meals

Eases the impact of malnutrition and food insecurity among the aged population and provides a more stable nutritional foundation for the health and independence of clients, with a special focus on serving rural areas: Fisher, Homer, Ludlow, Mahomet, Rantoul, Sidney, Urbana, six Champaign senior housing facilities, as well as Sadorus, Ivesdale, Tolono, Philo, Seymour, Savoy and Thomasboro.

A program of PeaceMeal


Champaign County Food Fund

A reserve of local dollars that can be used to place nutritious emergency food into the hands of people in need. Through the Champaign County Food Fund, participating member agencies receive a discount toward shared maintenance fees or the purchase price of product ordered from the Foodbank. 

A program of Eastern Illinois Foodbank


Child Advocacy Program

Trained volunteers work collaboratively with all individuals and agencies involved in a child's case to ensure that the child's best interest is being met during the time they are in the court system.

A program of Champaign County CASA


Community Living

Provides residential supports to individuals with developmental disabilities who would otherwise be unable to maintain their independence in the community. 

A program of Developmental Services Center


Emergency Shelter for Families

Provides homeless families with children a short-term private space to be sheltered together as an intact family and follow-up case management.

A program of Champaign County Regional Planning Commission


Get Connected: YOU Matter

Partners with five local organizations to bring point-of-care STI testing to women when and where they need it, as well as transportation assistance for clients, feminine hygiene items, and educational materials.

A program of Champaign-Urbana Public Health District



Provides Champaign County seniors age 60 or older with non-medical, in-home assistance with activities of daily living.

A program of Family Service of Champaign County


Immigrant Relief Fund

provides one-time, time-sensitive, emergency financial assistance to immigrants in Champaign County

A program of New American Welcome Center


Legal Help for Champaign County Homeowners

Free legal assistance to low-income homeowners living in Champaign County who are at risk of losing their homes.

A program of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid


Legal Help for Champaign County Public Benefits

Free legal assistance to low-income and vulnerable individuals in Champaign County who are seeking benefits or who have lost or are at risk of losing their benefits. 

A program of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid


Meals on Wheels

Home-delivered hot noon meals and optional cold supper bags. The hot noon meal provides at least 1/3 of the nutritional needs of older adults & can accommodate dietary needs such as low sodium, low cholesterol or diabetic diets. Primarily serves Champaign and Urbana.

A program of Family Service of Champaign County


Promoting the Mental Health and Well-Being of Immigrants 

Aims to remedy the lack of mental health services for immigrants. Provides individual in-person and tele counseling sessions for immigrants with a whole range of mental and emotional problems, as well as group sessions on specific issues, such as abuse and alcoholism.

A program of Immigrant Services of Champaign Urbana


The Resource Connection

Connects residents of northern Champaign County with basic needs services and with other social, physical, and mental health services provided by CU-based agencies/programs. 

A program of Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County


Senior Counseling & Advocacy

Provide information and referral services to the community as well as one-on-one assistance in the homes of Champaign County residents age 60 and older, helping them access benefits and services as well as providing supportive counseling.

A program of Family Service of Champaign County


Senior Transportation

Rides for Champaign County seniors who, for reasons of health or safety, can no longer drive and/or may not be able to use public transportation due to physical or mental limitations or lack of access to it. Clients can receive one round-trip ride per week to attend medical or business appointments, go grocery shopping or participate in life-enriching activities. 

A program of Family Service of Champaign County


Shelter Program

Shelter Program at C-U at Home provides year round shelter to men and women finding themselves homeless. 

A program of C-U at Home


Support for Immigrant Families

Provides immigrant clients with access to public benefits resources, including assistance with applications, counseling, and case management. 

A program of The Refugee Center


SOS Fund

Assists homeless public school students in Champaign County with purchasing clothing so that they can focus on their studies, remain in school, achieve their potential, and graduate on time. 

A program of Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation



provides education, career services, training, and trade-specific certifications to young adults (between ages 16 and 24), many of whom are high school dropouts. This creates housing for low-income families while giving the students marketable job skills.

A program of Housing Authority of Champaign County

The FY24 Community Essentials Grant Application is now closed. 

The FY24 grant pool total was $600,000.

All programs that are working in the defined area and meet the eligibility requirements were encouraged to apply.

This is a competitive application process. Not all applicants will be awarded a grant.

Grant awards will be announced publicly on May 31, 2023.

Important Details

Grant Application Opens:        March 1, 2023

Grant Application Closes:       March 31, 2023 at 12pm

Program Interviews:                April 2023

Notification of Award:              May 26, 2023

Grant Award Range:               $10,000 - $50,000 per program

Community Essentials 


Community Essentials funding from United Way of Champaign County targets services that are designed to meet physical needs (such as food and water, safety, shelter, and healthcare) as well as help navigating and accessing complex human service systems (identification and documentation, technology, and resource navigation).


The framework for Community Essentials ensures we can support our most vulnerable neighbors experiencing the hardest of times through an efficient and effective safety net of services with minimal to no barriers.

Eligibility Requirements

Grant activities must align with United Way of Champaign County's Community Essentials Definition.

Grant recipients must measure at least one output from UWCC's list of metrics.

The applying organization must meet United Way of Champaign County's grant eligibility requirements.