Restless and displaced: homeless find a home at the UGL

At midnight’s stroke, the UGL’s heavy doors lock to the public, requiring a University ID card to enter the building from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. Those who make it inside the UGL’s crisp walls before midnight’s roar can find solace within the books and public computers, while others are left to spend another night indoors.

For some, midnight at the UGL is the hour of distress, the hour where the last pervading thoughts frantically make their way on to paper. But for others, midnight is the cutoff hour, a last chance to enter the building without an ID for the night.

“A lot of people will show up when the doors are unlocked at six in the morning,” said Christina Head, store manager of Espresso Royale at the UGL. “They’ll be standing outside waiting. Basically when I am waiting to get into the doors to open the store, they’re also waiting to get into the library.”

At midnight’s stroke, the UGL’s heavy doors lock to the public, requiring a University ID card to enter the building from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. Those who make it inside the UGL’s crisp walls before midnight’s roar can find solace within the books and public computers, while others can find solace in a night spent indoors.

“You have to fill that void from when you’re homeless until you get your own place,” said Richard Turner. “Today theres a lot more opportunities to be somewhere comfortable at night instead of tossing and turning all night or having a nightmare, or just being by yourself. Some people are afraid to be my themselves.”

Turner has ventured in between shelters in Champaign for over two and a half years now. He seeks sanctuary throughout the robust streets of Champaign and endures the icy chill in the brisk winter months.

“I have stayed at the TIMES Center. It is a transitional place, so eventually you have to move on,” Turner said. “I usually drift from place to place, it depends on the weather conditions… But when I can’t find a place to stay, I just start my day over. There’s always something to do.”

Due to a disability, he struggles to find permanent work and although he receives disability benefits, establishing permanent housing is a persistent battle. He can be found on Green Street, asking for donations from students and community members.

“Asking for help is better than going out there and doing something devious or stupid,” Turner said. “I’d rather ask for it than do anything else… and some people are nice enough to offer.”

But the hardships of securing consistent housing lead some to the UGL.

The UGL is open 24 hours five days a week, closing at midnight on both Friday and Saturday. Given its convenient hours and available resources, many spend the entire night at the UGL, either studying or sleeping, although, bringing bedding into the UGL is against policies.

“I come to the UGL around two to three times a week,” said Ansley Heppner, junior in Media. “I usually come with friends and most people just come here because of its location.”

Most libraries on campus are open to the public but few stay open all night long. Grainger library is also open 24 hours, five days a week, closing at midnight on Friday and Saturday.

“It’s one of the very few places that’s open 24 hours,” Head said. “It’s a warm place to come, there are computers to use, couches and chairs. If I were homeless I would come here.”

The resources available at the UGL attract people from all over the community warranting interactions between students and non students.

“Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable when I see the homeless sleeping on the couches late at night,” Heppner said. “I can differentiate them from students because of their activities. They’re usually older, watching something online, not studying or sleeping.”

The majority of housing services for the homeless are spread out throughout Champaign and located off campus, isolating Campustown from prominent housing facilities for those in need.

“A lot of places here for homeless people are soup kitchens and stuff like that and they (homeless) don’t necessarily have a place to stay,” Head said.

The homeless and other regulars utilize all of the resources available at the UGL. , and there are few complaints surrounding them, Head said.

“They stay quietly in their corners for the most part. I don’t notice it very much. Nobody really causes trouble,” she said.

While some libraries provide services that cater to the homeless, libraries on campus provide a space for the community with resources that everyone can utilize.

“People just need to realize that this is the real world and there are homeless people,” Head said. “You’re gonna have to see it, you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.”

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