CHAMPAIGN – An emergency women’s shelter in Champaign, “C-U at Austin’s Place,” is now operating out of a new permanent location.
Starting 13 years ago as a grassroots mission effort by Champaign’s First United Methodist Church, the Austin’s Place women’s shelter has been operating lately out of local churches.
In the past year, the shelter came under the umbrella of the nonprofit ministry C-U at Home.
The new facility is under the same roof as CU at Home’s daytime drop-in center, The Phoenix, and its emergency men’s shelter, at the former TIMES Center building, 70 E. Washington in Champaign. But the women’s shelter has its own separate entrance — around the corner at 504 N. Market St.
Each room in the shelter has two beds, and the facility can house up to 14 women. The emergency shelter operates year-round.
Rob Dalhaus III, executive director at C-U at Home, says Austin’s Place is an essential service that has provided shelter to hundreds of vulnerable women over the years.
“Having a resource like this keeps our most vulnerable citizens out of the emergency departments, out of the jails, off of the streets, it allows them a safe space to go so they don’t have to couch-surf from one bad situation to another,” he says.
Dalhaus says he’s hopeful that bringing services for both men and women under one roof will make it less confusing for people in need of help and unsure where to turn.
“Now, 70 E. Washington here in Champaign can become this sort of homeless service provider hub, you might say,” Dalhaus says.
Men or women with children who show up in need of emergency shelter are connected with the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, which offers an emergency family shelter, he says.
Dalhaus says C-U at Home also works to connect people to other resources in the community, whether they are in need of treatment for a mental health condition or substance use disorder, or are ready to move from the shelter into transitional housing.
In the past year, both the men’s and women’s emergency shelters expanded to provide shelter year-round, instead of operating only in the colder months.
C-U at Home is still seeking about 470 more donors who can commit to supporting the ministry at $40 a month in order to cover the $300,000 of additional expenses incurred as a result of converting both shelters to year-round.
The organization’s annual “One Winter Night” event, will take place on February 5. Dalhaus says “One Winter Night” aims to raise awareness about homelessness. and brings in anywhere from half to two-thirds of C-U at Home’s annual operating budget.