CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCCU) — As it continues to warm up, homeless aid organizations in Champaign-Urbana say they are seeing an increase of new faces, doubling even tripling numbers from previous years. The reason? It may be due to a new resource in the community.
“With cooler weather in early spring and late winter, the numbers were about 25 to 30 at night, and all of a sudden we're seeing 40 to 50 each night,” explained Dan Davies, co-founder of CU Canteen Run, an organization that provides necessities such as food to the homeless.
Davies says the increase happened all at once, not gradually. And many of the people he and his volunteers are seeing are new faces.
“Well, it's hard to put numbers to it. We're seeing a lot of new people that we've never seen before,” said Davies. “Obviously, we see the same people that we've had in the past. However, there is a pretty good increase of new people into the community.”
One guess for the increase in new people is the addition of Strides Shelter to Champaign last December. A low barrier shelter accepting anyone even if they are under the influence.
“Here at Strides we’ve certainly seen a few people coming in that are from out of town, which I've heard is new and we recognize that is probably due to the low barrier shelter model,” said Strides community relations coordinator Charlene Murray.
Strides have seen an increase in their daily intakes since the weather has warmed up, but they say they still have beds available. Though when the weather starts to drop again, they don’t think that’ll be the case.
“I'm certain that with the influx and intakes we’re going to have a much bigger group of people that are needing sheltering in the winter time, and that is a little bit concerning. We do have emergency cots and I have a feeling that this winter we are probably going to be filling those,” said Murray.
Organizations like the Canteen Run and Strides Shelter are always looking for volunteers and donations whether that be money, old clothes, or food.
Every year the Champaign County Continuum of Service Providers to the Homeless conducts an annual homeless count. In January of 2022 they counted 137 people, Fox Illinois reached out to them for the results of their January 2023 count but have not heard back yet.