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Why Akron's Tent City Matters

We have our first public hearing that will ultimately determine our fate this Friday, June 15 at 9:00am.
These are the details:
AKRON CITY PLANNING COMMISSION
MEETING OF JUNE 15, 2018 – 9:00 A.M.
COUNCIL CHAMBERS, THIRD FLOOR, MUNICIPAL BUILDING, 166 S. HIGH STREET IN AKRON.
PLEASE COME TO THIS!
Please join us to support the homeless of Akron at this Public forum of the City Planning Commission. The public voicing support for our tent city is how we will win. Without your public support we will lose. It’s just that simple.

YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT THE EVENT BY CLICKING HERE.

I’m endlessly swirling in my head about what I want these people to know.

  • Women come crying to us thanking us for a safe place to sleep at night.
  • People that society has forgotten now have a place where they matter and are part of a community.
  • Closing our village will only send people back into the woods and onto the streets.
  • Senior citizens (in their late 70s) have a safe place to sleep.
  • This isn’t permanent housing. This is transitional, low barrier living to get people back into mainstream society.
  • Guardian study of two US cities finds crime is likelier to go down than up in neighborhoods that host city-sanctioned encampments. Read more here. 
  • We bring people to housing.
  • We have an addiction recovery group that rents space from us. Everyone that lives with us is required to take their drug assessment.
  • The health department comes regularly.
    • They inoculated us against Hepatitis A, a disease spreading through homeless populations throughout America.
    • They installed a hand washing station for us.
    • They bring us rubber gloves to handle food.
    • They bring us hand sanitizer.
  • Our main shelter in Akron is not ideal for everyone. Church service is required if you want to sleep there. Curfew is 8:00pm. Showers are in a wide open room with no privacy from all the other residents.
  • Agreeing to go to a shelter means losing many of your possessions. You have to pack what you can into a bag and leave the rest behind, to be stolen or thrown away.
  • Going to a shelter means giving up your pets and separating from your spouse. There are no co-ed shelters in Akron other than our tent city.
  • Our goal is to get people into housing.
  • If there was housing for everyone we wouldn’t need transitional facilities. But at the very least, it takes time to get people into housing.
  • People living alone on the street is worse for society.
    • They steal food.
    • They have nothing to do all day other than wonder aimlessly downtown.
    • They can’t get clean.
    • They rarely wash their clothes.
    • This spread disease.
    • Aimless homeless people downtown makes a city look bad.
  • We are part of the housing first model. We give people a safe place to live so that they can get back on their feet.
  • Being in a supportive community is what these people need at this time in their lives.
  • Being alone causes them to revert to higher drug and alcohol use.
  • We currently house nearly 50 people that would otherwise be on the streets, providing them a safe place to seek direct services, healthcare, and find jobs and housing.

It’s not like we are the first city in America to do this. These kinds of camps are springing up all over America.

More and more sanctioned tent communities are being established all over America because the need is real.

  • Las Cruces, NM, hosts a permanent encampment with a co-located service center.
  • Washington State permits religious organizations to temporarily host encampments on their property.
  • Vancouver, WA, permits limited overnight selfsheltering encampments on city property.

From the report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty: TENT CITY, USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments and How Communities are Responding
“At the federal level, an increasing number of courts are applying the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to protect the rights of homeless individuals to perform survival activities in public spaces where adequate alternatives do not exist; the rights of homeless individuals not to be deprived of their liberty or property without due process of law; the due process rights of homeless individuals to travel; and their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.”
We have come so far in the last 18 months at our tent city. If they close us down then we lose all the progress we’ve made.
We are the beginning steps of getting people off the street.
And that’s the thing we can all agree on. We want people to stop living on the streets. It is bad for them. And it’s bad for the city.

This Helps Akron

If the people in power do nothing other than say don’t do this and don’t do that then we can’t move forward.
This is what will happen if they shut us down: People will go back to the woods and abandoned properties. They will disappear. We won’t know where they are. We won’t be able to help them. They will just be festering like an untreated wound on the city.
It might make people feel better that we can’t see the homeless. But just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there and aren’t costing the city money and pulling us all down through crime and drug use.
Homelessness is real. And it’s not going away.
We aren’t asking for a single dime of money from the city. All we are asking for is the right to help the homeless.
If they close our tent city they will not have gotten one single person off the street. All they will have done is taken 50 homeless people and scattered them to the wind. They still will be on the street living in much worse conditions.
What we have created here is a HUGE opportunity for the good of Akron. We have shown that there is a need for a community for the homeless. We have shown that people will respond positively to this type of service who otherwise are service resistant. We are making them safer. We are making the city safer. And we are getting these people the help they need. Drug treatment, mental health treatment. Birth certificates. Photo IDs. Social Security cards. Food. Clothing. Internet access. Computers. Laundry. Showers.
This is a positive for Akron.
Please see that. Please see that we are making things better.
 

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