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Akron Struggles with a Tent City and the Bigger Question of Homelessness

Sage Lewis says he wants time to work with neighbors and the city.
WKSU public radio
Sage Lewis says he wants time to work with neighbors and the city.

Akron City Council is not likely to decide until this fall what to do about a tent city of homeless people on the city’s east side. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports on a struggle by city planners and others to find an answer:

Tent City buys more time

Advocates for Second Chance Village cheered and elebrated the announcement that the Akron Planning Commission would delay a vote on the tent city’s future until next month.

An overflow crowd mostly of supporters had spent more than an hour arguing that the encampment – which is operating illegally – is the only option left for about four-dozen people. Sage Lewis – who owns the property and set up the tent city about a year and a half ago – said he doesn’t see the project as a long-term solution, which is why he wanted the delay.

“Just the acknowledgement that we need to think about this just a little bit more is a huge success in homelessness in America as opposed to just saying no. So I see this as a wild success.”

Akron spokeswoman Ellen Lander Nischt says the city has been trying to find solutions, including giving its support for the adjacent building Lewis operates as a kind of homeless service center.

Nischt on city support

“The city has always been supportive of that building as a drop-in center, a day center, as any sort of homeless provider. That is not an issue in this proceeding. It’s really the tents in the back yard.”

She says Lewis has been offered a former battered women’s shelter in the area for sleeping quarters The tent city has been operating for about a year-and-a-half. 

Neighbors complain the tent city is a nuisance that attracts crime and other problems to the area.

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M.L. Schultze
M.L. Schultze came to WKSU as news director in July 2007 after 25 years at The Repository in Canton, where she was managing editor for nearly a decade. She’s now the digital editor and an award-winning reporter and analyst who has appeared on NPR, Here and Now and the TakeAway, as well as being a regular panelist on Ideas, the WVIZ public television's reporter roundtable.