Homelessness an issue in community, student body

Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

Homelessness is an issue in almost any city and Champaign is no exception. The difficulties of homelessness even affect a small portion of the student body here at Parkland.

Parkland counselor Dennis Cockrum said the threat of financial instability is a real issue for college students.

Cockrum said some Parkland students are “couch surfers”, students who “don’t have enough money from their financial aid, can’t work enough hours to get the deposit to get an apartment, and they may be staying with friends, sleeping on their couches.”

“Couch surfing” may not always lead to homelessness, but when it does the chances of a student dropping out of college are significantly higher. Without anywhere else to go, many of these students turn to local shelters.

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus   The Times Center, located at 70 E. Washington St.in Champaign.  Due to the current state budget impasse, the center will no longer provide lunch service effective Sept. 29, 2015.

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus
The Times Center, located at 70 E. Washington St.in Champaign. Due to the current state budget impasse, the center will no longer provide lunch service effective Sept. 29, 2015.

The Transitional Initiatives and Men’s Empowerment Services (TIMES) Center in Champaign, provides services for local homeless men.

Sue Wittman is the Director of Adult Recovery Services at the TIMES Center. She said the center has housed some Parkland students throughout the years. Not only have they had students who are enrolled at Parkland come to them for help, they’ve also had homeless men from the community who have made their way to Parkland through their program.

“Parkland is a valuable asset for many of our guys and their self-esteem rises when they realize they can enter college and they can succeed,” Wittman said. “We do have a recent graduate that went on to Eastern two years ago and graduated with honors from Eastern with a Bachelor’s Degree.”

Rob Dalhaus III is a supervisor at the TIMES Center. He described what the center does to help out the community.

“Guys come in, we develop a service plan with them to figure out what their short term and long term goals are moving forward, and try to move them from homelessness to independent living and self-sufficiency,” Dalhaus said.

Dalhaus said the center doesn’t just provide homeless men with shelter; they work to put together a comprehensive plan that provides a myriad of services. The center can house up to 70 men and has strict guidelines that these men must follow in order to be a part of the program. Wittman said there are two different levels to the program and those who make it to the second level have to pay into the program.

“They all have a savings plan,” Wittman said. “And they have to obtain some form of income and then they pay a partial rent fee to be in level two. They have to at some point show some readiness to really change. Because, otherwise we’re just enabling, so were really big on engagement.”

Dalhaus described why the social services provided at the center are valuable to the local community.

“Every guy that leaves here that is moving forward with their lives, that has employment, or that is a ‘ functioning member of society’ helps break down the negative stigma that is out there of homelessness,” Dalhaus explained. “I think that, in general, is good for the community.”

In addition to helping homeless men, the center also serves as a community soup kitchen, which is available to all men, women and children who are homeless. Because of recent cuts in state funding they have had to reduce the number of meals they are able to provide.

In an effort to lessen the impact these funding cuts have on the services provided, the center has put together a benefit concert.

On Oct. 9, Fat City Bar & Grill will be hosting the “Music 4 A Mission” fundraising concert to help raise money for the center.

Tickets are $5 in advance and may be purchased from Community Elements at their Champaign clinics located at 801 N. Walnut St. or 1801 Fox Dr. Admission will be $7 at the door at Fat City the night of the concert. All proceeds will benefit TIMES Center.