Community Essentials

Accessibility Options

Three images: people eating, reading, and looking at the camera.

Food. Water. Housing. 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.

Learn more.

Food Insecurity

Financial insecurity leads to difficult choices - can we pay rent or buy food? 11% of Champaign County families are food insecure. Our community has made great strides in this area down from 15% in 2017. 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 (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) 54% of all calls to Champaign County's 211 Help Center were for housing and shelter. An additional 13% reached out for help with utility bills.

In the past 12 months, our 211 Help Center made 467 referrals to local homeless shelters.


Working together to help people meet their needs

United Way is committed to provide long-term support for Community Essentials. In 2021, United Way awarded $588,000 in grants to local programs to provide essential supports 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.

Future Grant Opportunities

We anticipate opening a grant window in the first half of 2022. Interested nonprofit programs should contact Beverley Baker to receive a notification when this occurs. 

Special Projects in Community Essentials

211 - Get Connected, Get Help

Farmers Feeding Families

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


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


Bridge to Subsidized Housing Utility Assistance Program

The Bridge to Subsidized Housing Utility Assistance Program will provide utility assistance to households approved for subsidized housing and connection to services that will support continued household stability. 

A program of Champaign County Regional Planning Commission


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.

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


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. 

A program of Champaign County Regional Planning Commission



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


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


Medical Care for Low-Income Adults

Promise Healthcare provides primary medical care to low-income adults regardless of their ability to pay and welcomes new patients daily.

A program of Promise Healthcare


Medical Care for Low Income Children

Promise Healthcare provides medical care for low-income children at Frances Nelson, the Urbana School Health Center and the Community Resource Center.

A program of Promise Healthcare


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


SmileHealthy Dental Center

Full time dental clinic co-located at Frances Nelson that provides high-quality dental care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay.

A program of Promise Healthcare


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


Tax+ Options Counseling

CRIS utilizes evidence-based, person-centered, "Options Counseling" in the process of social service case management for individuals experiencing financial distress including assistance with tax returns. 

A program of CRIS Healthy Aging