Annual Count of Champaign County Homeless Continues Crucial Work Being Done by Local Consortium on Behalf of Community

A park bench covered with snow

The annual count of people experiencing homelessness in Champaign County took place on Thursday, January 26, 2023. Mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and organized locally by the Champaign County Continuum of Service Providers to the Homeless (CSPH), the Point-in-Time (PIT) count allows homeless service providers to track progress made towards ending homelessness in the community.

Over the past year CSPH has been involved in several important initiatives. In March 2022, CSPH conducted a series of focus groups to obtain feedback from individuals with lived experience of homelessness. Key goals of the focus groups were:

  • To understand the factors that lead to or exacerbate homelessness locally
  • To identify gaps or inefficiencies in local CSPH systems, especially Emergency Shelters and the Coordinated Entry System
  • To establish a system for eliciting direct feedback from people with lived experience
  • To develop improvements for CSPH systems

A few key takeaways from the focus groups included:

  • Additional access to low-barrier shelter, with access to hygiene, is critical. (It should be noted that the Strides shelter in Champaign opened its doors in December 2022 and is currently in operation.)
  • Staff in emergency shelters need mental health training.
  • Participants want to learn about services from the providers, not from other participants.
  • The community needs additional case management and more intensive case management where it is already offered.
  • Participants desire opportunities to build skills while staying in shelters.

CSPH also conducted a summer 2022 PIT count in addition to the HUD-mandated annual PIT count required to be conducted in January. A total of 137 individuals were identified as homeless in Champaign County during the January 2022 PIT count and a total of 194 individuals were identified during the summer 2022 PIT count. The 2023 PIT count in Champaign County took place starting at 8pm on Thursday, January 26. There were 31 volunteers sgned up to help.

Congress utilizes the data collected from the PIT count to track the needs of people experiencing homelessness and to determine federal funding allocations for programs serving people experiencing homelessness. PIT counts both sheltered (residing in emergency or transitional housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness) and unsheltered (living in spaces not meant for human habitation, such as cars or on the street) people.

About the Champaign County Continuum of Service Providers to the Homeless

CSPH is a consortium of more than 40 non-profit and government agencies, faith-based organizations, and businesses, including the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, committed to ending homelessness in Champaign County. CSPH welcomes new members, including agencies, faith-based groups, businesses, and interested community members searching for rewarding volunteer opportunities. The Continuum meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 3pm. Those interested in joining can contact Katie Harmon at 217-239-5942 or kharmon@ccrpc.org.

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