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Renee, a young woman who graduated from Ignite in 2018, states: “I was living in a dangerous situation. It was overwhelming. For my safety, I needed to get out.”

Initially, Renee took refuge at friends’ homes but discovered they could only do so much to help. When she was unable to stay with friend’s, Renee would try for a shelter bed. She was sometimes shut-out though due to the lack of resources to meet the high demand for overnight services. She spent these nights walking around outside, just waiting for morning to come. “I was a senior in high school, wanting to go college, but there were days I couldn’t get to school. There was just no way. I was too far away. I didn’t have the money to get there. My grades started going down. I had been a straight-A student, so aside from everything else, this was also pretty devastating.” While at a shelter, Renee encountered an outreach worker from Ignite who enrolled her in Ignite’s housing program.

“My life totally turned around once I got to Ignite. Just not having to worry about where I was going to sleep made a huge difference. People don’t realize how much it takes just to find food, let alone a place to brush your teeth when you’re homeless. I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t have money for these things. My Ignite case manager pushed me and supported me with important goals. We got transportation so I could get to school again every day. She also helped me get a social security card. Now I’ve got a job!” Renee signed a lease for an apartment in Champaign-Urbana, where she began to further her studies. “I wanted to go to college because I know the importance of education,” she said. Although our Ignite community was sad to see Renee leave, it was a comfort knowing that staff spent the day driving Renee to Champaign-Urbana and helped her unpack and get acclimated to her new living situation. We remain proud of Renee, who is now pursuing psychology and advertising through her studies. And she, in turn, continues with the knowledge that Ignite is the family she can always come home to.

Ryan Paroline