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Community struggles to house the homeless

CHAMPAIGN -- Homeless shelters are available for both men and women in Central Illinois, but this time of year there's an increase in people who need their services.
CHAMPAIGN -- Homeless shelters are available for both men and women in Central Illinois, but this time of year there's an increase in people who need their services. Most don't have enough space or money to help everyone. WCIA-3's Anthony Antoine has more.

Many shelters have referral programs. If they can't help you, they try to place you, even outside the county if you're willing to relocate. But, that's not guaranteed.

One woman never thought homelessness was in her future.

"I had discovered the love of drinking from 16. I was also addicted to food."

At one point, Sue Walthall weight 460 pounds.

"I got sick of being morbidly obese."

She lost over 200 pounds. That's just on the outside. Inside, she's worried about sleeping in the cold.

"It's scary actually. It scares me because winter is coming and to think I'll probably have to be outdoors and to think there is nowhere to lay my head down because there are no emergency shelters available."

"We tend to be full. We tend to be at capacity, especially during the winter months."

Walthall was living with her parents. She says, after a blowup with her daughter, her parents kicked her out and filed a restraining order. She reached out to the Center for Women in Transition and the Urbana Ministries and was denied.

"The Champaign-Urbana community is very lacking in emergency homeless services. Are they on the street? Are they living in their car? Those people we really try to get either into our own shelter or a good, solid reference, just as quickly as possible, but we can't always do it for everyone."

She says she will continue to live by her faith in God and hopes she finds a place to stay.

"It will be hard, but that doesn't mean God isn't going to go with me through this."

The Center for Women in Transition has 19 beds. All are currently filled and there are 32 single women and 24 families on the waiting list. They say it's a struggle every year to pay the bills and have enough to help the women in need.

In December, a temporary shelter will open to house more homeless women. Austin's Place will be open until March. Women must check in and out daily. The beds aren't guaranteed.
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