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Empty harvest: Migrant family faces hardships in Rantoul

RANTOUL— On a Saturday morning in October, trash overflowed from Dumpsters at the old Air Force hospital in Rantoul, where about 300 migrant farm workers and their families lived this summer and fall. Suitcases sat stacked on a picnic table; men walked around one another’s vehicles, looking under the hoods. Inside, the Ortiz family planned their 1,300-mile journey home to South Texas.

Brothers Ernesto and Isidro Ortiz, their wives — who are sisters — and their five children arrived in Rantoul in early July to detassel corn for Monsanto Company. When the hot fieldwork of summer was done, they stayed on to sort corn at Monsanto’s Farmer City plant.

By Shelley Smithson -- Alejandra Ortiz and her family traveled to Rantoul from Texas to work for Monsanto.

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.´

Thousands live on the edge of economic despair in county

After a day of wiping tables and sweeping french fries off the floor of McDonald´s, Kelly Gaddis limps home to the Courtesy Motel on North Vine Street in Urbana.

Gaddis, 53, cannot afford to buy a car or lease an apartment on the $8 an hour he earns as a lobby attendant at McDonald´s. He and his wife, who also works at the restaurant, rent a motel room by the week within walking distance of work.

He also cannot afford the company´s health insurance, so he hasn´t seen a doctor about a foot problem that causes him to limp. Asked what he does when he gets sick, Gaddis chuckles. “You hope you don´t. Or you go to the hospital and when the bill comes, you add it to the rest of them.”
The News-Gazette/ Kelly Gaddis and his wife, Kelly, in their home in the Courtesy Motel in Urbana.

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