Austin’s Place: An emergency shelter for homeless women
In 2007, the City of Champaign Neighborhood Programs Manager approached local, downtown churches to solicit help in providing emergency overnight shelter to single, homeless women during the winter months. At that time, Champaign had no emergency shelter
available for single women. The First United Methodist Church's leadership did not hesitate to respond.
During the initial season of Austin’s Place, from January 1, 2008 through April 15, 2008, working in partnership with the Council on Service Providers to the Homeless, Austin’s Place was able to provide emergency, overnight housing to six homeless women per night.
During that time, we provided 166 instances of shelter. During the second season of Austin’s Place, from January 2, 2009 through April 15,
2009, housing capability increased to eight women per evening,
and 274 instances of shelter were served during that second season.
We continue to ask whether we are still serving a need. We look at the number of women we serve and also the unmeasurable aspects of our service. We consider whether our contribution has a positive effect on the quality of the life of the women using the shelter. Our Steering Committee and volunteers agree our mission is purposeful. Our guests also testified that there is no alternate place to go. Therefore, we plan to continue Austin’s Place.
Austin's Place is named after Austin Cloyd who was killed in the tragic Virginia Tech shooting. She wanted to bring peace to a troubled world, using her summers to initiate service organizations and work on service projects.
"No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. And if everyone does something, then together, we can change the world." - Austin Cloyd
Volunteers are the backbone of Austin’s Place and it's mission. Without volunteers, Austin's Place cannot serve our community. Each evening and morning we have a volunteer driver and two volunteers who stay all night at the Shelter. Additional volunteers do laundry, solicit and retrieve donations, help with advertising, pray, and spread the word through the community. Volunteers are actively trained to better understand homelessness, which includes participating in activities to understand the emotional, psychological and social consequences of homelessness. Compassion and respect for the women we serve are characteristics we want to cultivate in our volunteers.
The mission of Austin’s Place has been blessed over many years. First United Methodist Church has provided a safe and comfortable shelter, allowing Austin’s Place the use of utilities, water, storage, and van for transportation without cost to us. During our first season, our operating budget began with a humble $25.00 donation. During our second season, as the result of prominent media coverage, and grassroots advertising efforts, we received monetary and in-kind donations to sustain services, which included feeding our women guests dinner each evening, and providing snacks and beverages, clean socks, toiletries, and bus tokens. Most incredibly, the third season of Austin’s Place was able to give a monetary donation to First United Methodist Church and our partners, The Center for Women in Transition (now Courage Connection) and the TIMES Center, for their help in providing this service. In each of our seasons since then, we have been grateful to all who have donated and have ourselves been able to donate back to those non-profits who partner with us in caring for our guests each winter.
For the past few years, our Steering Committee has been proactive in seeking funding through grant applications, churches, private donors, and fundraiser events. As we look towards opening our doors again for the next year, we are fundraising to meet our operational costs. We look to your generosity as volunteers and donors to help meet a significant need in our community.