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CoC: I am not your enemy.

Our marketing agency was at its peak around 2008.

We had about 25 employees. We’d do the things all flush with cash tech companies would do. We took limos to other states to go gambling. Every new employee would be asked what their favorite drink was and we would supply it free of charge. We had dogs come to work. We paid for all their healthcare.

But then one day our biggest client, Charter Communications, pulled out. Then another big client pulled out. And then another and another and another.

When you are going through a recession as a business owner you are trying to predict the future. How long is this going to last? If the recovery comes soon and you let all your people go you will lose all your intellectual capital and won’t be able to ride the wave back up.

And then there are the people. Moms, dads. Young people. Firing them when no one is hiring is brutal. And of course in America they don’t just lose their income. They lose their healthcare.

You feel terrible having to fire people. And then you feel terrible that you feel terrible while you inflict this economic and healthcare attack on these people.

I feel like I developed a form of PTSD during that time. It forever changed my view of business and capitalism.

My point is: I know what it feels like to make a big client happy.

I would have done (and tried to do) anything to save those clients from leaving. But I couldn’t. They left. All but 2 left.

The people with money hold all the power. You are entirely beholden to them. Their power is terrifying.

***************

I could be reading this wrong. But it just feels like you, as an organization, want to make the city super happy.

From the 2018 Akron city budget:

Emergency and Transitional Housing
Emergency Shelter Grant Program provides funding
for sheltering the homeless. Funding awarded on a
request for proposal basis to eligible, non-profit
providers for emergency shelter housing and for
intermediate term housing and homeless prevention
services for homeless individuals and families.

$20,000 Community Development
$505,000 Emergency Shelter Grant

Homeless Prevention
Provisions for Homeless Prevention Program.
$150,000 Community Development

And then there is the federal money:

Akron City Council denies zoning change, releases ‘action plan’ for homeless encampment | cleveland.com
Annually, Summit County is awarded about $8 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and HOME Investment Partnership and Emergency Solutions Block Grants to combat homelessness. The money is  disbursed through the COC agencies.

Here is how the money was dispersed in 2016.

No one wants to upset the money apple cart.

So, when a guy in a cowboy hat comes on the scene and starts doing new things it causes a disturbance in the force.

And it gets harder when your big client starts calling you telling you they are pissed.

The last thing you want is a voicemail from the mayor saying “we need to talk.”

So, the natural response is when the city calls and says “Jump!”  You say, “How high?”

Now, that’s not to say you love tents. If there is one thing we can all agree on… no one is in love with tents.

But I know for a fact that there are differences of opinion among CoC members in tiny transitional houses.

You know better than me how difficult some people are to house. They become almost unhousable.

You know what it’s like to try to get a landlord to house an arsonist / meth manufacturer.

But that’s where I come in. I want to be the person that provides transitional housing for the hardest people. I want the arsonists. I want the former meth manufacturers. I want the sex offenders. The harder the better. I want the people the rest of society has deemed less than human. And I want to be the person that takes people off of the street and shelters them while you work on the very difficult task of finding housing for these people.

Look at this brutal war Keith Stahl had to go through to put up Stoney Pointe, a beautiful facility created to help house the homeless:

He faced many, many personal attacks that he probably would prefer I don’t discuss publicly.

Housing the homeless is so hard from so many angles.

The homeless have so many issues that they are difficult to get into housing. And then there is this massive wave of Not In My Backyard sentiment.

The Catholics have been great to us. But the Catholics right next door to us are finding loving your neighbor a true challenge.

My skill is that of an entrepreneur and storyteller. Don’t you see how we have built a wave of positive public sentiment for helping the homeless? Don’t you want to be part of that?

We have almost entirely removed the public hatred of the homeless. If anything the public has shown a huge wave of love and support.

Let’s use that love and compassion to move forward in dealing with the hardest to house people in our community.

So you don’t like tents. Fine! Then what DO you like? What can we do together?

You know full well that we need new transitional services to shelter people. You know that’s true. So, let’s figure out what we can all agree on.

We can be innovative. We can take risks.

And the fact of the matter is: You are the ones in control. The city might be upset. But they aren’t going to fire you. They are going to listen to you. They are going to work with you. They can handle the truth.

I suppose there is also the possibility that you just don’t like me. That you resent me for stepping into your territory. But this isn’t about me or you or the city. If this is part of the equation please try to forgive me. All I’m trying to do is work on the tragic truth that there are people living on the streets and no one deserves that kind of brutality. I didn’t come here to hurt you. All I care about is the homeless.

**********************

I know you shudder at these blog posts. I truly feel bad that I likely am causing you stress. But no matter what you think, you have to know that I respect you. I am thankful for you. Summit County has a lot to be proud of. But the work isn’t done. We need to keep doing more and doing better.

You can do this. The landscape of homelessness is changing all across America. The cost of living is too high even in Akron. And the national services have been gutted for the last 30 years.

We must evolve. We can’t stop growing.

Take care,

Sage

 

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