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Uncertain TIMES: State cuts jeopardize program for homeless men

By Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess -- On an average night last year, nearly 60 homeless men didn't have to sleep on the streets of Champaign-Urbana thanks to the TIMES Center.

But like so many other service providers in Illinois, the transitional housing program for homeless men, located near downtown Champaign, faces an uncertain future as a result of the state’s ongoing fiscal morass. In the state budget that took effect July 1, the TIMES Center, 70 E. Washington St., saw grant funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity slashed by a combined $95,000, officials said.

Dan Petrella/CU-CitizenAccess -- The TIMES Center, a Champaign transitional shelter for homeless men, faces an uncertain future due to the state's on going monetary woes.

No place to sleep: From eviction to shelter

Alissa Groeninger/CU-CitizenAccess — Valentino Plaza was born in Champaign but left when he was eight years old.  His father was in the military and stationed in the county, but was soon out of his life. 

Plaza and his mother moved back to Champaign a few years ago and were staying with her 96-year-old mother. 

“My old neighborhood looks smaller,” Plaza said.

Unfortunately, Plaza’s grandma didn’t pay her taxes. After she died, Plaza and his mother were evicted.

While he has family here, he doesn’t see them.

“They’re right here and look where we are.  They’re not offering to help us,” he said.

Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette/Valentino Plaza. Plaza has found temporary housing at Restoration Urbana Ministries, where he lives with his mother after they were evicted from their home.

Extras: Seeking 'Safe Haven'

The Safe Haven community began late in the spring of 2009 when a small group of homeless people began pitching tents in a backyard near the Catholic Worker House in Champaign.

The organizers were seeking a sense of safety and community in a group, supporters said.

The News-Gazette

Local homeless students can easily fall through cracks

CHAMPAIGN -- Mason Hurtado is an athletic boy with an enormous smile and neatly trimmed hair. He is a sixth-grader at Franklin Middle School in Champaign, where he takes college preparatory classes and participates in chess club, basketball and, come January, wrestling.

Inside the classroom, he looks just like any of his peers. But when he leaves school at the end of the day, Mason heads home to a two-room apartment filled to the ceiling with clothes, toys and other pieces of his family’s life from before they were homeless.

The News-Gazette/ Mason Vaughn,13, and his mother Debra in their room at Restoration Urban Ministries on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009.In back are Mason's sisters Victoria, 9, and Asharie, 2.

Advocates for homeless push micro-shelters as one solution

CHAMPAIGN -- Although they have a home until May 1, the future of Safe Haven’s residents remains unsettled.

The self-governing group of homeless people, which started as a tent city and is now staying the winter at Restoration Urban Ministries, is still looking for property where it can build a more permanent community and win the government approval needed to do so.

The News-Gazette/ Abby Harmon of Safe Haven talks at the cookout for neighbors and city council members at the Safe Haven tent city in the backyard of the Catholic Worker house in Champaign on Saturday, July 25, 2009.

Safe Haven community seeks alternative to the elements

CHAMPAIGN --  David Nash knows how dangerous life can be for homeless people living alone on the streets.

While Nash was serving time in state prison for forgery in August 2002, his father was beaten to death by three teenage boys in a grassy area near the Martin Luther King subdivision in Champaign.

The News-Gazette/ David Nash talks about being beaten while living on the streets of Peoria, as he sits on his bed in a room he shares with five other adult men at Restoration Ministries on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2009

Lack of refuge from winter may leave homeless out in cold

CHAMPAIGN -- Some homeless men in Champaign-Urbana might be left out in the cold this winter if organizers are unable to come up with a plan to revamp an overflow shelter that rotated between area churches in past years.

The TIMES Center, a transitional housing facility for homeless men at 70 E. Washington St., Champaign, previously administered the overflow shelter. Men who needed refuge from the winter weather would show up at the center to go through a screening process and were then taken to a church where they stayed the night. But after five years, the center will no longer offer the service this winter.

The News-Gazette/ The Rev. Ervin Williams stands in one of the newly renovated rooms at Restoration Urban Ministries in Champaign. The rooms will house members of the Safe Haven tent community until mid-spring

Survey: Homeless population continues to increase

CHAMPAIGN -- Champaign County's homeless population continues to rise, according to two recent surveys, a trend authorities blame at least in part on the economic recession.

The latest survey, in August, counted 594 homeless people in Champaign County, including 358 children, according to the Urbana-Champaign Continuum of Care, a group that oversees homeless services.

That's a 20 percent increase from a similar count last January, which found 495 homeless individuals. Last winter's number, in turn, was 15 percent higher than the 429 counted in the January 2007 survey.

The number of homeless children has also grown. About half the 345 households surveyed this summer had children, up from 38 percent in January, figures show.

The News-Gazette/ Salvation Army Stepping Stone Director Jennifer Valade says her shelter is receiving a new homeless case ‘every day. The biggest issue is employment.´

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