The Champaign County Continuum of Care, a consortium of agencies and governmental units committed to ending homelessness in Champaign County, conducted a survey of the area’s homeless population on January 28, 2014. This included people both sheltered (i.e. residing in temporary housing for the homeless) and unsheltered (living in places unfit for human habitation, such as cars or on the street).
According to the survey, on that day 222 persons (including 47 children) in 176 households were homeless in Champaign County. Of those surveyed, at least 1 individual was classified as chronically homeless (i.e., homeless for over one year or 4+ times in 3 years and having a disabling condition); at least 32 persons were identified having severe mental illness, chronic substance abuse, and/or HIV/AIDS; 21 persons were identified as victims of domestic violence; and 23 single men were identified as veterans.
The homelessness point-in-time survey is completed annually so that local homeless providers can measure the effectiveness of existing services and identify additional approaches that are needed to address local needs for shelter and housing options. The previous count in January 2013 identified 214 homeless persons in Champaign County, and so has remained fairly constant for the past year. However the number of persons identified with chronic substance abuse reduced significantly from last year’s total of 56 to only 26 this year, and the number of unsheltered persons reduced from 26 to 12. It is important to note that the count is held during the week selected for the national count by HUD and may be affected by weather or other factors, and that positive impacts also were achieved from significant HUD funding committed over the past three years for homeless prevention and rapid re-housing of homeless households.
This year’s count used data from both electronically-collected information in the Continuum’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) for all persons sheltered at local agencies, and from a “street count” which collected information manually for unsheltered persons. Street count sites included the Salvation Army’s Canteen Run, soup kitchens, and warming centers.
Details gathered about household characteristics and causes of homelessness aid local efforts to plan targeted housing solutions through the Continuum’s strategic plan to end homelessness. For example, in recent years Continuum of Care agencies have tailored development of the United Way’s pilot Emergency Shelter for Families, expanded local tenant-based rent assistance programs, and reallocated funds for rapid re-housing efforts in response to identified gaps in services to move households into more stable housing situations. The Continuum’s goal is to work toward ending homelessness through prevention, speedy intervention, and affordable housing initiatives.