Property owner working to end homelessness as Akron denies zoning for tent city

AKRON --  Following complaints from area residents, Akron city officials have denied a local property owner zoning rights permitting people, in this case the homeless, to live on the property.

An encampment of tents behind an old factory in Akron's Middlebury neighborhood was known as Second Chance Village when it sprung up in January 2017.

The camp was started by entrepreneur Sage Lewis, who owns the property and learned about the plight of Akron's homeless when he was running for mayor in 2015. From the beginning, Lewis viewed the camp as a step toward finding permanent housing for the homeless.

"So this is transitioning, I have never made a case that I love tents, I'm not into tents, tents are what I could do," said Lewis, "I just had wished that the powers to be could have seen the benefit of what we were creating here."

Amid complaints from neighbors about a variety of problems, the City of Akron denied a request to change the commercial zoning to allow people to live on the property, signaling the beginning of the end of Second Chance Village.

"They don't like to look at the homeless people, I'm sorry but I feel like this was...too much of a spotlight on the fact there are people living in tents in our city and they never wanted to talk about that," Lewis explained.

The City of Akron initially set Thanksgiving week as the deadline to shut down this camp but the Mayor's Office agreed to extend the deadline to December 3, because local organizations have been having some trouble finding housing for for some of the people who have been staying there.

However, Sage Lewis says he is not going to just fold his tents and will continue to look for solutions to keep the homeless from living under the bridges and in the woods of Akron.

"This is private property," Lewis told FOX 8, "This is my property. This is not public property or something we're just squatting on, I own this, so I'll be interested to see how the city handles this."

Lewis says he is not stopping and if officials take down his tent city he will "do something else" and "stand up for our rights as Americans to shelter the most in need in our community."

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