New shelter opening in Champaign

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CAMPAIGN- Community groups gathered for an open house at a new emergency shelter for families at the corner of 3rd and Park Streets in Champaign Wednesday morning.

The shelter, called Emergency Shelter for Families at Maple Grove, will include seven units that can each house families of up to six adults and children for 30 days, according to organizers. While some work is still being done to prepare the building, it is expected to open January 1.

Last year, 676 school-aged children were homeless in Champaign County, according to data from the Regional Office of Education. While there are already homeless shelters in the county, Beverley Baker, Community Impact Director for United Way, said those existing shelters are not always an option for families with children.

“We have services in the community for men, for women, for women and children, and some of those services are transitional, which means they are full, they operate with a waiting list much of the year,” Baker said. “So when a family finds themselves in an emergency situation, they don’t have a lot of options.”

Baker said for several years, community groups have spoken about the need for a shelter that could serve such families, and in 2011, the United Way brought together a steering team to help establish a shelter. In the years since, the team researched possible models and performed two pilot programs.

“We spent a lot of time looking at the need in the community, looking at best practices around the country, looking at other communities and models they’re using,” Baker said.

In 2013, the Champaign County Housing Authority suggested the property at 3rd and Park, which the authority since purchased and renovated. United Way of Champaign County has also pledged up to $50,000 during the first year of the project and $65,000 in the second two years.

For more details on the project, click here.

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