C-U at Home Newsletter

Winter 2023

One Winter Night 2023

Our 12th annual One Winter Night community awareness/fundraising event took place earlier this month on February 3.

This year’s event had a “something old/something new” feel, with over 50 people participating in the outside simulation experience, around 150 attending the evening program, and dozens of UIUC students engaged in educational and empathy-building activities on campus.

Things kicked with the drive-thru donation event hosted by First United Methodist Church in downtown Champaign. Volunteers accepted donations all day, and the event raised over $9000! The Venue CU graciously hosted the event for the third year in a row, providing both a safe area for outside simulation participants and an amazing space and support for our evening program.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped take donations!

WCIA’s Matthew White hosted the evening program, which featured uplifting music by Todd Epps and Andy Kim from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at UIUC. Keynote speaker George Dennehy shared his inspiring personal story of faith and hope, encouraging the audience to press on in the face of life’s challenges and blessing everyone with his own unique musical talents (view the main program on our YouTube channel).

George Dennehy (left) and host Matthew White

Executive director Melissa Courtwright shared details of our “pathways to progress” vision for shelter programming, then a panel of staff from our case management team fielded questions about the important work they do and the blessings they experience along the way.

The evening program ended with a short video featuring our programming and client testimonials, followed by reflections and parting words from Melissa and founding board member Mike Royse.

One Winter Night continues to be an iconic community awareness event that brings annual attention to issues and needs related to homelessness in C-U. It also helps provide the needed funds that allow us to address those issues and meet those needs in meaningful ways.

Thanks to everyone who participated, volunteered, donated, and helped organize OWN 2023. We are blessed by your generous support!

Case management team members chat with Matthew White
Outside simulation experience, tent style
Future Business Leaders from Champaign Central HS
Keagan Markun’s sixth year at OWN with mom, Katie
Melissa meets with UIUC students on campus

We appreciate your support!

Each year, the success of One Winter Night is made possible in part by local businesses sponsors and the support of faith community partners. Thanks to these businesses and churches who supported OWN 2023.

Spotlight on Staff

We are excited to welcome Laura White to our team as Housing Navigator. This new position, among other things, will assist clients through the process of identifying appropriate housing options when they are ready to move on from our shelter program.

Laura grew up in Chicago, both in the city and in suburbs. She came to C-U in 1983 to attend the University of Illinois and has been here ever since. Laura has a BA in Philosophy, an MS in Social Service Administration, and an MBA. Her professional background has involved work in the tech world, in operations, consulting, and social services. She recently earned CADC (certified alcohol and drug counselor) accreditation.

In addition to helping clients obtain post-program housing, Laura’s position involves identifying appropriate housing options and interacting with landlords and other organizations on behalf of clients. She also will be helping us with data collection and reporting.

“The mission and the culture are what brought me to C-U at Home,” she says. “I’m looking forward to helping in any way I can, including getting the software/database cleaned up and working like we want it to.”

Laura shares life with 2 cats, Roibin and Seamus, and dog named Finn who also spends time with her daughter, a school psychologist for the Urbana schools. She and her husband are expecting in May, so Laura is looking forward to the arrival of her first grandchild! Laura also has two sons that live in Florida and practice law there.

“I love hiking and hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim in November of 2019,” she says. “It took 21 hours and I will never do it again but it was really cool to accomplish that! Around here, I walk a lot and spend a lot of time working with other women in the local recovery community, which I love.”

The Housing Navigator position adds another important piece to the services provided by our shelter programs. From intake through case management to help with housing on the other end of the process, we are committed to providing “pathways to progress” every step along the way.

“Pathways to Progress” updates

Change can be challenging, but it also can open new doors to opportunities! It’s taken some time to adjust and develop new routines with our current shelter programs and client services, but we are beginning to feel a new sense of normal taking shape.

Of course, “normal” isn’t always the word to use to describe our daily routines! We quickly experienced a greater demand for our program than our current capacity could meet. That required housing some folks in hotels temporarily until space was available. Unexpected complications getting a washer and dryer installed at Austin’s Place necessitated regular runs to the laundromat.

But for the most part, things have settled into place. Since the beginning of this year, 20 men and 14 women have participated in our shelter programs. Only nine individuals have left the program (some to relocate for work). Two moved up to our advanced shelter housing program, and two others have maintained safe and stable housing.

Weekly routines for our residents include regular meetings with their case managers, attendance at group meetings (GROW, coping skills, resume building), housekeeping chores, grocery shopping and other “normal” life activities. Staff assists with transportation to appointments and helps clients learn to navigate local mass transit. Meals are picked up from Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and sometimes are donated by churches or caring donors. Residents often prepare their own meals as well.

“This place has given me different opportunities [that are] definitely going to help me out in trying to get my life back together,” one Austin’s Place resident relates. “This is where I’m going to start!”

We appreciate the support we received from generous donors that helps us provide the shelter programs and other essential services we provide to our clients. As we move forward with our “pathways to progress” plan, we need community support more than ever! Visit our website to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how you can help us in our mission.

GROW mental health support group meeting
Employment counselors from Kraft host job fair
Interviewing for job opportunities at Kraft
Staff celebrates under our newly-installed awning

A Message from Melissa

One Winter Night reminds us that our community is filled with heroes! We not only had Wonder Woman show up, but we had also so many faithful heroes in the community come out and show support. We had businesses who willingly dedicated their resources, volunteers who filled key roles, outdoor participants who faced the cold, churches who took steps of faith, and donors who gave generously. We also had the opportunity to have some of our clients with us for One Winter Night, and they reminded us of their heroic steps forward, and how they are on a Pathway to Progress out of homelessness.

Each time a business, volunteer, church, or individual donor provides resources to our organization they provide a steppingstone on the pathway of progress. The path begins with a safe place to stay and assistance in obtaining basic documentation, like an ID. It extends to a meal provided, a life skill developed, a Bible study, new bed linen, transportation to appointments or support during a relapse or mental health crisis. Thank you for being the heroes who pave the way with us as we walk along side our brave, heroic clients.

Melissa Courtwright, Executive Director

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