AKRON, Ohio- A small encampment of tents in a muddy strip of land behind an old factory, has become home to dozens of Akron’s homeless.
The tent city, known as Second Chance Village, was developed by community activist Sage Lewis, who says he discovered the plight of the city’s homeless, while he was running for mayor in 2015.
"The homeless problem in Akron is the homeless problem in America. We are ignoring the homeless; we are dehumanizing them; we are marginalizing them and we are pretending they don't exist," said Lewis.
Although the conditions in the camp are primitive, Lewis says the tents provide shelter from the elements and his organization, The Homeless Charity, then attempts to get them back on their feet.
"As simple as just putting people in tents, you give them safety and security, and then they are able to work on their mental health issues, their addiction issues, getting a job. That stuff is impossible in the woods," he said.
But at least one neighbor is not happy about the camp in his backyard, and he has now filed a lawsuit in Summit County Common Pleas Court, asking that it be declared a public nuisance and shut down.
Daniel Doverspike, attorney for the plaintiff, told FOX 8, "The homeless encampment has moved right up to his very property line."
Doverspike says his client, Sam Adkins, moved out of their home because he and his family no longer felt safe. "There have been arguments with members of the encampment; there have been arguments with administration in the encampment. He had young grandchildren that visited him often at his home; he no longer feels that they're safe," said Doverspike.
Sage Lewis says he has tried to create a safe environment in the camp, and among other things, has banned the use of alcohol and drugs.
He says if the lawsuit succeeds in shutting down the camp, he fears that those who have already fallen through the cracks in society, will lose all hope of redemption.
"Psychologically they’re saying 'you don't matter; we don't care where you go, but you're not staying here,'" said Lewis.
Both sides concede that the dispute can eventually be resolved, if they can negotiate a deal that would allow the charity that runs the camp to purchase the house.