Smile Politely

Sign this petition to have the TIMES Center re-opened

In 1999 local, state, and federal funds of $1.4+ million were used to build the TIMES Center in downtown Champaign. It was in good faith that these governmental bodies entered agreement with local service provider Community Elements (CE), to operate this building as a men’s emergency homeless shelter.

While the TIMES still operates a 20 bed “transitional” program, the (up to 50 bed) men’s emergency homeless shelter was shut down in July. CE was purchased by Rosecrance, who has 40 drug and alcohol programs in four different states, they do not operate any homeless shelters. The closing is due to a lack of will to provide homeless services, on the part of Rosecrance, more than anything else.

Shelia Ferguson, the local director for Rosecrance says that it is not possible to open an emergency shelter in the TIMES Center because there is no funding for staff or material. She said the shelter operated at a loss of $250,000 over six years. That is less than $41,000 per year. That is a very small bridge for C-U to cross.

Stop Gap Solution – CSPH has cracks

The United Way and others, calling themselves the Consortium of Services Providers for the Homeless (CSPH), is garnering donations of $28,500 for three months for four full-time staff and supplies. The only problem with their solution is that it is a three-month “pilot program” that has “multiple cooperating churches” at the core. They hope to operate from January 2, 2017 – March 31, 2017 and then put another solution in place next winter. It is valiant effort, but a piece-meal solution at best; an effort that does not challenge the assumption that Rosecrance couldn’t be persuaded to use the building for the purpose for which it was funded.

The better solution? 

Champaign, Urbana, the county, townships and mental health board, need to agree to fund the staff required for the re-opening of the TIMES shelter. While the legal agreement with (CE/Rosecrance) only required five years of operating the building as a homeless shelter, there is no reason that our homeless should be denied access to a building that we paid for, if we can provide the money for the services.


Editor’s Note: The top photo originally published has been changed since then, Times Center photo by Scott Wells. 

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