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Champaign Township is looking for new homeless shelter location

C-U at Home's facility at 70 E. Washington in Champaign is now the site of year-round shelters for both men and women.

URBANA – The city of Champaign Township hopes to open a new homeless shelter, called Strides, later this fall, but it’s still looking for a location.

On Sept. 20, the Champaign City Council, in its capacity as the Champaign Township Board, approved a resolution for the city of  Champaign Township to begin the process of purchasing C-U at Home’s current location. 

Located at 70 E. Washington St. in Champaign, C-U at Home – a Christian-based ministry with a mission to help homeless people is among the potential shelter locations Township leaders have said they are considering buying. 

The Champaign County Habitat for Humanity ReStore building at 119 E. University Ave. in Champaign is also among the buildings the Township is considering purchasing. 

C-U at Home Executive Director Melissa Courtwright said C-U at Home and the Township’s Strides shelter have different building-related needs based on the clients they aim to serve. 

While the Township is looking to create a congregate shelter with shared living spaces, C-U at Home wants to create more private spaces for its “mid-barrier clients,” she said.

She defined mid-barrier clients as people who “may not necessarily be sober or have all of their mental health needs addressed” but want to work toward sobriety or better their mental health. 

The Strides shelter, however, will be low-barrier, meaning that people won’t be denied services if they are dealing with substance abuse or mental health problems, Courtright said. 

“I think of low barrier as a place where individuals oftentimes aren’t ready to take next steps or they’re just not thinking about that right at the moment,” she said, “but they still need a place to be safe, and they need a place to hopefully start engaging individuals.” 

Courtwright said C-U at Home was planning to remodel its building before learning about the Township’s search for a building with shared living spaces. 

“We thought, ‘The township is talking about remodeling the University property, and that won’t really get them to their end goal,’” Courtwright said. “‘We’ll be in a building that we’re thinking about remodeling, but that won’t really get us to our end goal. What would it look like if we partnered together?’”

Courtwright said the C-U at Home location used to be a low-barrier, congregate shelter even before the ministry opened, which is another reason why it approached the Township to buy its building. 

“That’s really its purpose and its intent,” she said, “and so we thought to put our clients first and to create the right system. It just made sense for them to purchase the building.”

Champaign officials said they would fund the shelter for its first two years at $3.9 million, and it’s contributed an additional $1.25 million to allow the Township to purchase the 70 E. Washington St. location. 

If the Township purchases C-U at Home, Courtwright said her organization would look for a new location. If the purchase doesn’t happen, C-U at Home will return to its original plan to remodel its building. 

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Sydney Wood

Sydney Wood

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