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Survivors of homelessness

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- A mother and daughter share their story after surviving homelessness.
CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- Homelessness doesn't have a look and it doesn't fit a specific stereotype. WCIA-3'S Anthony Antoine talked to a mother-daughter team who say, if it wasn't for the resources and shelters in Champaign Urbana, things would be a lot different.

"We try not to forget where we came from. When you're in this situation you don't see an end. It's like a black hole," says Felicia Caesar.

Caesar and her mother, Cathy Garner, survived homelessness. Garner was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic.

"I was very much brainwashed. I loved my children very much, but I somehow felt like I needed to take care of him more," says Garner.

She came close to giving her kids up for adoption. Instead, she found refuge at Courage Connection, formally The Center for Women in Transition.

Garner says, "They had two beds and my daughters slept in one of those beds and I slept in the other bed and we started to find some direction."

Money for the shelter isn't coming in like it used to.

Mary Wallace, who works with Courage Connection, says, "Roughly 15 percent of our annual income comes from private donations, not just individual's but also churches and civic groups. We’re finding that needs to be a bigger and bigger percentage. Grants from public sources, state and federal, are getting smaller and some granting opportunities just go away."

Garner says no one chooses to be homeless and she's raising awareness by telling her success story.

Garner says, "By donating to your local shelters, you can help a bigger problem of homelessness."

With these signs, Garner and her daughter are thanking the community for funding and supporting their recovery.

Caesar says, “I couldn't have gotten to the point where I am now without their help."

As cars drive past, heading in their own direction, this family hopes drivers will stop, read their sign and take a life lesson home with them.

"Don't judge the homeless person until you know their story," says Garner.

Garner has 15 years sober and her daughter, Felicia, recently graduated with an associate’s degree in anthropology.

According to C-U at Home, the actual number of the homeless in Champaign County is hard to define. But, in Champaign schools there are 250 kids in the system considered to be homeless. In Champaign overall, about 500 don't have a place of their own to sleep every night.

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