Nonprofit restructures emergency homeless shelter

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) -- New Covenant Fellowship Church is usually empty overnight, but this winter, more than 30 men will call it home. 

"We just want to keep people warm and safe and drying during the coldest months of the years," says Sheryl Palmer. 

She isn't a member here, but she's the pastor at Faith United Methodist. Along with First Presbyterian, C-U at Home and the United Way -- the churches formed a new nonprofit called CU Men's Shelter. 

"We don't have the services that we used to have because of budget cuts and many different things, and this is, I think, the least we can do," she says.  

Palmer is the board chair. She says in the past, churches took turns housing the homeless.  

"Last year we were two days at Faith, five days at First Presbyterian. It was hard getting folks where they needed to be." 

Champaign mayor Deb Feinen says it was hard for the men, too. 

"One of the things we find at the city building is that people don't know where to go," she says.  

But this year, New Covenant is the place to be. The nonprofit is helping them stay open seven nights a week. 

"Having one address and knowing where people can be sent, I think it will be easier and keep people safer and warmer," she says.

 It will also operate longer. Last year the emergency shelters opened January 6. This year, they'll open more than a month earlier. Palmer says the more days the nonprofit can house the homeless, the better. 

"Most people don't chose this lifestyle," she says. "Some people do, but we still need a place for them." 

The shelter will open December 1 or sooner. It will be open from 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Organizers say it takes about $12,000 per month to run the shelter, so they're always accepting donations and volunteers. 


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