On Monday, September 17 – 29 Days Ago – Akron City Council voted 8 to 4 to shut down our tent city.
“We support people living in safe housing indoors, not tents,” said City Planner Jason Segedy, who crafted the action plan after consulting the CoC. Segedy added that he and the CoC are committed to working with Lewis to move the needle on homelessness, and not just for people living in tents at 15 Broad St.
That’s from here: Tent city’s homeless residents must vacate by Thanksgiving
All along this journey the city has confidently said there is housing for everyone that needs it. Literally that’s what they said.
Heckman said there are enough available beds in the county to accommodate those affected, many of whom have mental health or substance abuse issues. The action plan calls on Continuum of Care to meet with each person and develop housing options for each.
The Continuum of Care also said that our Tent City is the cause of homelessness increasing 71%.
This past year we have seen an increase in homelessness. In exploring the cause of this increase, it appears the growth and development of the Second Chance Village is a primary factor. Since the opening of the village, our unsheltered homeless population grew by 71 percent in one year.
This isn’t simple victim blaming. This is blaming the Good Samaritan.
This is the mindset of an addict that sees no problem with their behavior.
Not one time have I heard anyone in the city or the Continuum of Care say they have a problem.
As of today, through incredible diligence and determination by the homeless workers of Akron we have housed 6 people.
DESTINY – HOUSED!
JOSEPH (CJ) – HOUSED!
JOYCE – HOUSED!
JARED – HOUSED!
ZAK – HOUSED!
ERAN “Red” – HOUSED!
I am beyond excited for these people.
And because of you in our donation drive, we have been able to pay for things like back electric bills, moving expenses and things they need for their houses.
It’s truly incredible.
But there is another side to all of this.
It has taken 29 days to house 6 people. That’s just over 1 person every 5 days.
And truth be told, that’s amazing work, if you think about it. Here are people that have lived on the streets for months, if not years, and we are putting them into houses to the tune of 1 a week. That’s an impressive feat.
But that’s not the bar we have to achieve.
All of these people must be housed by Thanksgiving. Through no basis in research or understanding the homeless population, that’s the random deadline the city has given us.
As of today, our pace needs to be to house 1 person every single day until Thanksgiving. And not just Monday through Friday. We have to house a person 7 days a week to meet this deadline.
I’m now hearing rumblings that “well, we might not actually be able to house all these people by Thanksgiving. Some of them might need to spend a “few days” in a shelter.”
This is a situation where those in charge are happy with the way things are and they don’t want to see anything change.
Change is scary. And change for people in the non-profit world is terrifying.
These are all truly good people.
But they have become beholden to a bureaucratic system where government funnels them millions of dollars every year to maintain the status quo.
This is why people become resentful of government. They don’t innovate. They don’t adjust. They just maintain… Usually while asking for more money.
These are people who, while very good intentioned, have never seen the business end of the capitalist system.
Bureaucracy is insulated from the invisible hand of capitalistic natural selection. This is the world I have been forged in for the last 2 decades.
If you aren’t a better and cheaper solution than the other guy you will die. It’s just that simple.
Bureaucracy, for the most part, has never experienced that kind of raw survival of the fittest.
So when guys like me and Dave Murray, with his tiny houses, come along we instantly get shot down. They will do anything, include lie and blame us for hurting the homeless. When in reality they are just terrified that the truth might get exposed.
That housing the homeless is incredibly difficult.
To say that all a homeless person is missing is a house is to say that all an obese person is missing is more salad in their diet. Theoretically that’s true. But the underlying reasons for obesity and homelessness are a complicated mess of emotions, psychology and mental health issues.
If there were 5000 empty apartments ready to house our 43 people I’m telling you the process would go no faster than what it is going right now.
- There is finger printing.
- There are background checks.
- There are birth certificates, IDs and social security cards to get.
- There are statements for the social security office to get.
- There are intake processes.
- There are orientations to get into programs.
- There are countless trips to countless government offices to take.
Then there is the driving around looking at apartments.
This is all done with people who make ZERO dollars a day and have significant mental health issues AND have lived wild in the woods sometimes for years.
I’ve seen a woman sleep in the grass beside a railroad crossing with her dog even though she had a house.
These are feral humans. They are wild and completely suspicious of a system that spit them out onto the violent, cold streets of America months or even years ago.
This isn’t just about putting people into houses.
This is about treating a condition called Homelessness. It has as many moving parts as treating alcoholism or any other behavioral-based condition.
For the leaders of homeless services to say that we just need to get people into houses is insulting to the homeless and is an outright lie to keep their millions of dollars flowing into them.
They know perfectly well what a complicated process it is to house the homeless.
- What if you have 2 dogs?
- What if you have an arson charge on your record?
- What if you have a meth manufacturing charge on your record?
- What if you are a sex offender?
- What if you are so riddled with anxiety that you can’t imagine ever moving indoors?
- What if your spouse has a bad record? Will you move without them?
They know this is a mess.
But to keep the money people happy they just keep blaming people like me for increasing homelessness and repeating the party line that “we have houses for everyone that needs them.” (And may I say, that line is a total lie in and of itself. There is not a single county in America that has enough housing for the poor and extremely poor of their communities. We have 20,000 people on our low income housing waiting list here in Akron.)
Now let me just stop right here for a minute.
Perhaps you feel the frustration I feel through the words I’m writing here.
While I’m frustrated, I am not hateful.
I have no hate in my heart for any of these people.
If anything, I have pity for them. They are scared addicts of a steady supply of government money.
“What happens if a guy like Sage changes the system?”
“What happens if a guy like Sage shows the government that we don’t have the homeless situation handled? That we aren’t doing everything we can to help these people?”
Truth be told, I don’t know what will happen.
But this is who I am. I’m a change agent.
I was leading the digital marketing revolution in 1999 when people barely knew anything about online marketing.
I come at problems from a new perspective. I’m a trouble maker for industries that see no reason to change. This is what I bring to planet earth. It’s my “gift.” (I’m quite sure many people see it as an annoying fault. But change is inevitable, no matter how painful it might be.)
I see no reason why we need to build multi-million dollar buildings for the homeless that make developers wealthy when we have countless houses we’re just tearing down.
I see no reason why we can’t ask the homeless what they want instead of people who have never missed a single utility bill dictating the services homeless people get.
I see no reason why we can’t admit that getting people into housing is as hard as telling your uncle he needs to stop drinking so much.
This is an intervention.
I’m not here because I hate anyone. I’m here because I love everyone.
I love the homeless service workers that work insanely hard for these people.
I love the politicians that are just trying to do the right thing for their city.
I love the homeless service leaders that are just trying to keep their organizations afloat in a turbulent era.
I truly get where they are all coming from.
And, I hope it goes without saying, I love the homeless most of all. Had it not been for the endless support of my mother and my wife I feel quite confident I’d likely be out in the woods with these people.
I would rather die than be told to pray. I would rather die than be told to go to bed at 8:30pm. I would rather die than be stripped of dignity and be forced to shower in gang shower facilities.
Without a doubt, I would be one of the people that homeless leaders would accuse of “not wanting to be housed.”
“Sage just wants to live in the woods. He doesn’t want help.”
NO! I want to be treated like a human being. I am a person, not the animal you are forcing me to become.
I get the homeless. I will not quit the homeless.
Together we will all learn what being homeless means and what the homeless need.
We have not come to an end. We have just begun.
In the next 38 days, the city has committed to housing the remaining 38 people living at our facility. This feels like Schindler’s List to me. This is just a small drop in the bucket of a sea of never ending homeless people that will need help.
But, damn it! I’ll take it. House these people:
ANDREW – Not Housed
ANTHONY – Not Housed
BRIAN – Not Housed
CHARLA – Not Housed
CRAIG – Not Housed
CRYSTAL – Not Housed
DANIEL – Not Housed
DARRELL – Not Housed
DAVE – Not Housed
DION – Not Housed
DONNIE – Not Housed
DUANE – Not Housed
ETHAN – Not Housed
GARY – Not Housed
GEORGE – Not Housed
HUGH – Not Housed
JACK – Not Housed
JAMES – Not Housed
KATE – Not Housed
KENNY – Not Housed
KEVIN – Not Housed
MARK B – Not Housed
MARK W – Not Housed
MARY – Not Housed
NIKITA – Not Housed
PATTY – Not Housed
REBECCA – Not Housed
REINA – Not Housed
RICHARD C – Not Housed
RICHARD G – Not Housed
RICHARD R – Not Housed
ROBERT (Sully) – Not Housed
ROCHELLE – Not Housed
SONYA – Not Housed
TRAE – Not Housed
TYLOR – Not Housed
VIRGINIA – Not Housed