My mom has been dead for a couple years now. I still haven’t really clearly understood the emotions of that experience.
It’s like a punch to your spirit, I guess. Like an emotional flu.
It’s not anguish. It’s more like a depletion. Like someone cut a limb off.
I bring it up because the emotions I felt when my mom died remind me of the emotions I feel today about being forced to take our tents down.
There’s just a big “Why?”
Why did this happen? Why now? Why couldn’t I have done more to keep her alive?
But I’m a funny guy. In the same moment where I’m feeling this significant loss, I’m also looking forward. What is next? Where do we go from here?
I have heard that optimism is a trait you are born with. I have more optimism inside me than any single person should probably be allowed to possess.
In business, you learn very quickly to just accept the economic and governmental factors that are in place. There’s no point in being outraged by the way things are. You accept the way things are and adjust from there. I’ve learned that lesson very well.
Almost instantly from hearing the news that we have to shut down the tents I started doubling down on our future.
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Our day center with our clothes and food and laundry and computers is not going anywhere. This is important: OUR DAY CENTER IS STILL GOING STRONG.
And then we need to double down on getting houses. We already have one house. We are applying to allow up to 10 people stay in that house.
We are working on getting a house from the Land Bank. And there is another house that is a drug house nearby. We’re starting the process of buying that as well.
So houses. Houses are the easiest way to get people in-doors.
Tiny houses that are connected to utilities are also a great interest to me. But they are probably going to be a phase 3 idea.
I’m going to be writing a lot about where we go from here. It’s important that we all understand where we are right now and what our next steps are.
- Continue building up our day center. My dream is to make it 24 hours.
- Buy more houses for emergency sheltering. If we can get nearby houses where people can sleep in the houses and then come to our day center during the day that would be great.
- Work on our makers school that teach people skills. We’ve already starting screen printing and bike repair.
- Transportation for the homeless. Getting to appointments is a huge barrier for the homeless to get back into society.
- Expand our food pantry. People are literally starving in our neighborhood of Middlebury. We need to get more food to these people.
There is also going to be an activist component to this.
Most governments in America simply refuse to understand that there are people suffering on our streets. They are more interested in their image than their people. It’s like they are covering their eyes and ears yelling “La la la, I hear nothing. I see nothing.”
Our governments must wake up. Their citizens are being subjected to a brutal existence that no one seems to want to do anything about. Men, women and children are living alone on the streets. It is wrong. We must do better.
We will never stop fighting. We will never stop helping.
We can do this. My experience along this journey is that the people of Akron have a strong desire to help the homeless of their city. We have to inspire our leadership to develop a similarly strong desire.
As one example: we have women regularly coming to us because our women’s homeless shelters are full. What are we supposed to do about that? Do we just chalk it up to: “That’s the way it is?” I simply can’t, in good conscience, do that.
I don’t know if our government understands this but: While they have successfully shut down our tents, tents are not going away. People will be living in tents in much worse circumstances throughout the city. With no running water. With no toilets.
This is such a missed opportunity for the city. They are moving backwards. Not forwards.
But whatever. It is what it is.
We will never stop fighting. We will never stop helping.
This is unfortunate and sad. But it’s just the next phase.
I am a person who rarely is satisfied with my performance in life. I’m always beating myself up that I could have been better. I could have done better. So, I blame myself for not figuring out the magical formula to inspire our leadership to care about their homeless. And make no mistake: They don’t care about their homeless. You don’t throw a bunch of puppies out of your car and say you care about puppies. Your words don’t align with your actions.
I couldn’t get them to care. Yet.
But I also realize we have made some incremental progress. We have gotten to have a wonderful discussion about the homeless in Akron. Thanks to the media, we all got to think about a problem that maybe we didn’t think about much before.
We also got to build a homeless run facility to help the homeless. It is truly a powerful concept that I’m excited to keep pushing forward.
So, we’ve made some progress. It’s not enough in my book. And that’s why I’m not stopping. But we did make some progress.
And ultimately, we get to move forward from here.
I would be remiss in saying: none of this would have been possible without you. Your money. Your time. Your donations. We run on your energy. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for sticking with us and helping the homeless of Akron. I hope that you continue to find our mission inspiring and helpful. None of this is possible without you.
Thank you for all that you do for us. I love you.