Emergency Shelter for Families History

Accessibility Options

Support the Emergency Shelter for Families! make a gift to United Way's Income building block.

The Community Challenge

For many years community leaders, concerned citizens, and service providers in Champaign County have heard about the need for emergency housing for families with children: stories of families doubled up in small apartments, and documented instances of children attending school while their families resorted to living in a car. Needless to say, homelessness is not conducive to a child’s academic and social development, and creates stress. These children aren't worried about their next book report or test - they are worried about where they will sleep tonight. These worries can become barriers to success in school and can affect a child's chances to graduate from high school. According to the Regional Office of Education, last year in Champaign County 676 school-aged children were homeless.

It is important to note the difference between emergency and transitional housing. Emergency housing is temporary and immediate, while transitional housing is designed as a longer-term program. Transitional programs for families are available in our community. They often have a waiting list.

In 2011 United Way, who is a member of the Council of Service Providers to the Homeless, committed to bringing the right people to the table and studying the issue in-depth. A steering team was established. Many models were considered, including one involving churches and volunteers, but many obstacles were encountered. When the church model was deemed unsustainable, an RFP for a pilot program using hotels coupled with case management was developed.

Pilot Program Determines Need

Pilot Phase I took place from February 2013 – August 2013. Pilot Phase II was offered from February 2014-September 2014. Case management was provided by Champaign County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) and was funded by United Way. Sixty-one unduplicated families were housed during Phase I and Phase II of the pilot project - 82 adults and 130 children. Over 200 families were turned away during the pilot due to lack of capacity. This pilot provided significant data and proved the need for emergency shelter for families with children in Champaign County.

A Permanent Solution

While the pilot served families, the steering team continued to investigate and research sustainable permanent models. In fall 2013, Housing Authority of Champaign County (HACC) stepped forward with a property they were actively pursuing. HACC offered 9 units to be used for the purpose of emergency shelter (8 for housing and 1 office for on-site case management).

In October 2013 HACC Board approved the purchase of the property and its’ intended usages. From late 2013 - spring 2015 HACC actively pursued a grant and its requirements to renovate the property, and the first funds were granted in spring 2015. Significant renovation began shortly thereafter. During summer 2015, the Steering Team developed a program outline and released an RFP to provide permanent case management and shelter oversight. CCRPC was chosen to administer the program. Necessary agreements were signed and roles clarified as the shelter renovations came to a close.

The permanent Emergency Shelter for Families program opened in June 2016! Because of the many partners involved and the careful testing of the model during the pilot phase, we're confident that this program will be a great success and will result in many families securing permanent, stable housing.

We need your help! Join the effort to help families become financially stable: make a gift to United Way's Income building block.