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Summit County Continuum of Care Working to House Akron's Homeless

photo of Second Chance Village
TIM RUDELL
/
WKSU
The years-long battle over Akron's 'Second Chance Village' tent city ended in 2019, but homeless encampments have actually increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials in Akron are working to clear out homeless encampments this week – a program which was on-hold during the coronavirus pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, shelters closed or limited their capacity to ensure social distancing. Many people suddenly found themselves homeless and living outdoors. Akron had stopped sweeping those tent cities last March, but now says it must respond to safety concerns about the homeless encampments – from residents, property owners, and even railroad officials, since many of the encampments are near train tracks. Mar-quetta Boddie heads the Summit County Continuum of Care. She says her agency is working to get hotel vouchers for many of the people who will now be displaced.

“Our sole mission is just to put people in housing. We have nothing to do with all the politics of everything and I know it’s easy to think that's not what it is. But our goal is just to prevent and end homelessness; so everything aside from that is really outside of our mission.”

Boddie says finding long-term housing can be a challenge for people with mental health issues or a criminal history – and the soaring real estate market is only making that worse right now. She stresses that hotels are an expensive, short-term solution.

“When we put 15 people in a hotel, we have to send somebody up there to provide food. We’ve got to have transportation. We’ve got to make sure nobody is damaging the property up there. It costs a lot of money to do that.
“So we don't want the message to be, ‘go and talk to Community Support Services so you can get a hotel.’ The message should be, ‘connect with CSS. Let's get you in the shelter and let's get you into housing after that.’”

But Boddie says new challenges remain: even though shelters are opening back up as vaccinations become available, the eviction moratorium is also over. She expects even more people – especially single Moms with children -- to need housing in the coming months.

The Summit County Continuum works with a number of agencies to aid the city's homeless. Boddie invites anyone interested in collaborating to contact her office at 234-312-0833.