CTSO works to build trusting, long-term relationships with its participants, who represent some of the most vulnerable members of our community. We understand that trust is a two-way street – and must be earned over time. We meet residents where they are at in their struggle, and build trust by meeting immediate needs (food, clothing, transportation) while working towards long term needs (income and housing).
CTSO is committed to equity -- in race, gender, socioeconomic status, and ability. CTSO refuses the welfare tradition of sorting people into the deserving and undeserving poor and using race and gender differences to justify exclusions. Instead CTSO takes an equity approach to services, "screening in" instead of "screening out," hiring staff who have direct experience accessing public aid, training staff to provide equitable service, monitoring and correcting trends in service, structuring participant engagement and feedback in services, and prioritizing local, minority, and women owned businesses in contracts.
Recognizing their inherent worth and strengths, we accompany residents on a path towards greater resiliency and long-term housing security. We walk alongside residents, providing support as they prioritize their health and well-being, access healthy food, gain earned or SSI income, train for and enter the workforce, apply for and move into housing, and stay up to date on bills.
Recognizing many CTSO participants struggle to meet their basic needs, are low literacy or are English learners, have difficulty navigating technology, and/or work odd hours, we provide a myriad of entry points for our services – in person, on the phone, and online. We support the application process, including ordering and paying for needed documentation (birth certificates, SSA cards), providing bus tokens and passes for transportation, ensuring residents have a free cell phone, providing translation services (Spanish, French, ASL and others), and paying for printing and copying costs at the library. CTSO staff work in the field; we are in every Urbana school, at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, the library, parks, and public spaces.
As a public agency, we are available and accountable to the public – with an elected Supervisor, Town Board, and clerk; monthly meetings that review all expenditures and are open to the public; and public documents and decisions.
For participants, we provide clear, consistent communication, providing program parameters verbally and in writing, providing verbal and written warnings if program boundaries are crossed, working towards restoration plans, and providing opportunities for input and appeal. Any participant can appeal a decision made by the Supervisor to the Public Aid Appeals Committee.
Collaboration is core to everything we do. CTSO closely collaborates with over two dozen local organizations. The Supervisor serves on board of the Champaign Urbana Public Health, the Executive Committee of the Continuum of Service Providers to the Homeless, as a field instructor at the School of Social Work, and on the Homeless Task for for LGBTQ+ services. CTSO is a member of Human Services Council, Township Officials of Illinois, and Housing Action Illinois.