On February 5, C-U at Home hosted their tenth annual One Winter Night event in Downtown Champaign to raise awareness and money for people who are homeless. Despite the Covid restrictions, which pushed them to alter the way they’ve celebrated in the past, the event was still able to surpass its goal of $450,00 and raise around $563,000.
Much like in normal years, box-dwelling volunteers still committed to spending 12 hours in a cardboard box to experience the difficulties of spending a winter night outside. Each had a goal of individually raising $1000 for the cause. However, this year, city permits were not granted, preventing box-dwellers from filling the streets and sidewalks. Instead, private parking lots were put into use while participants social-distanced.
“We had folks spread out across five parking lots in downtown Champaign, and then we also had three other satellite locations. The WBGL radio station parking lot, the Stratford Park Bible Chapel [parking lot], and [the parking lot of] a church in Farmer City, Trinity Community Fellowship as well,” says C-U At Home’s Executive Director Rob Dalhaus.
Still, coronavirus pushed C-U at Home to find another way and offer a virtual option, something they’d never done in the past.
“We had the event streamed on our Youtube channel,” says Dalhaus. “We also had a zoom link out for it as well. That way, folks that were concerned about Covid-19 could log in and check out what was going on and didn’t have to necessarily be on site.”
In Downtown Champaign, the event headquarters were at The Venue CU which had musicians and local speakers who participants, both virtual and in-person, could listen to.
This event raises a bigger question of what will happen to Champaign-Urbana’s homelessness rates after the ban on evicting tenants ends in Illinois. The governor put out an order extending the Eviction Moratorium until April 3rd, 2021 to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
“Covid has really impacted not only those of us with an address, but also without,” says Dalhaus. “This last year especially, I saw a community come together behind one common mission: let’s make sure those in need have a place to go at night and have all the support they need.”