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Local officials encourage getting involved to help fight homelessness

Homelessness is one of the biggest issues in the C-U community and it's why dozens gathered to discuss how to resolve it. (WCCU)

Homelessness is one of the biggest issues in the Champaign-Urbana community and it's why dozens gathered Wednesday afternoon to discuss how to resolve it.

“Homelessness is a major issue in Champaign-Urbana and the business community and non-profits and faith communities need to help address it,” attendee and minister for community relations at University Place Christian church Christopher Schilling said.

The discussion included representatives from C-U at Home, Champaign police, and Rosecrance.

"I think one of the main reasons we see so many people come into the Phoenix Warming Center is because they're craving community,” executive director of C-U at Home Rob Dalhaus III said.

The event was initially organized to address business owners’ concerns about panhandlers.

"You have the right to ask them to move along away from your business if you need to,” officer Dan Ward said. “You can also ask them if they need anything if they'd like a glass of water and a few minutes later if they don't need anything else, tell them it's time to go.”

The panelists then talked about local shelters, ministries, and non-profits serving those who are homeless.

"We were able to understand what's out there so we can help connect people,” Schilling said. “But also to understand the bigger picture, housing insecurity in Champaign-Urbana and to understand what's going on and how we can be a part of the solution.”

The panelists said being a part of the solution means showing kindness.

"To be a resource and to show people that you're present, that you acknowledge them as a human and to offer a bit of yourself to them in interaction,” executive director of Champaign Center Partnership Genevieve Kirk said.

The speakers also stressed the importance of volunteering in the community.

"Get involved with anything that's going to make you more aware of the resources and the agencies in our community that can provide help,” coordinator of 24 Hour Programs at Rosecrance Champaign-Urbana Monica Cherry said.

There are several ways to get involved, everything from volunteering at a local pantry or at C-U at Home which is also holding One Winter Night in February. The speakers also said the local women and men's shelters can always use volunteers.

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