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Akron Tries To House Homeless While It Shutters Tent City

Mark Arehart

Akron City Council has set Thanksgiving as the deadline for the shutdown of Second Chance Village.

It’s been a busy week since Akron Council voted not to approve the zoning change that would have allowed Sage Lewis to continue operating Second Chance Village, about a dozen and a half tents and shelters set up behind his business on the city’s east side.

Along with the refusal on the change, though, the city said it wants to help find housing for all of the residents who’ve been living in those tents.

Lewis says he and the supporters of the homeless enclave believe that the city wants to help.

“It feels like they’re serious, you know,” Lewis says. “People really weren’t on board with it [before] like they are now. And that’s great”

But Lewis also says the task of taking care of the tent city resident’s somewhere else is daunting. 

This is a huge undertaking,” he says. “If we can do this, if we get can 40 to 45 people housed in two months, it will be astronomical."

Will Van Dyke is a behavioral health counsellor who’s worked with Akron’s homeless for 15 years and volunteers at Second Chance Village. He says finding the right placements for homeless clients is especially important.

“If they want to get these people housed you can’t just come in and say, “O.K., we’re going to put him here, and we’re going to put him here.’ You don’t want to put somebody in a place where they might flip out because they’re not comfortable there,” Van Dyke says. “They need a needs assessment.”

The process has been helped along by both city agencies and private non-profits.

“Community support services were here.” said Lewis. “They started doing their official intake process.”

Lewis also points out that there is a housing team put in place.

City Council member Zack Milkovich stoped by to see how the shut down plans are proceeding. He asked about morale, and VanDyke said it’s not bad, but most of the residents are anxious about what’s going to happen.

Second Chance Village resident Rochelle Devo, ended up there after her marriage ended and then she lost her job. She’s concerned too – not so much with the transition but with how publicity is causing stereotyping that may hurt the efforts of many at Second Chance Village to find housing.

“Yeah, I’m worried that we’re getting a bad rap," Devoe said. "And there are people here, good people, who don’t do any drugs and don’t have any criminal record. They’re just down on their luck. Like me.” 

Sage Lewis says he believes comprehensive solutions to homelessness are still frustratingly far away. However, he is encouraged by the city’s evolving attitudes toward the problem.

But he says even when the tents are gone, he and his “The Homeless Charity” non-profit will continue offering counseling.