AKRON, Ohio-- Several people who were still living in an Akron homeless camp spent the day dismantling tents and cleaning up ahead of Saturday's deadline for it to shut down.
The city of Akron said it has offered permanent housing to nearly everyone living in the camp. Some people said they don't want to leave.
“This is our home,” Donnie Hudkins said. “No one wants to live in these kind of conditions, but sometimes life doesn’t go the way we would like it to.”
Dozens of people have lived in tents behind a Broad Street business since the camp first began two years ago.
“I don't know where I'm going right now,” Hudkins said. “I'm waiting on housing, but it takes time.”
The city of Akron ordered compliance with zoning code by Saturday, effectively shutting down the camp after city council denied a zoning variance request to allow the homeless to live on the commercial property. Property owner Sage Lewis sued the city in October to try to stop the eviction.
“The way we are treating the homeless of America is not right and we cannot let it stand,” Lewis said. “We must do better by these people.”
The city extended previous deadlines because local homeless organizations had trouble finding housing options. Akron City spokesperson Ellen Lander Nischt said in a statement that Continuum of Care, a coalition of homeless advocacy groups, reported only one person who was living in the camp at the time of council’s decision is still waiting for a permanent housing offer. That offer is expected from Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority in the coming days, she said.
“It is our understanding that Mr. Lewis has continued to allow new people to come to his property and add tents since city council’s decision,” Lander Nischt said in the statement.
Roger Shortridge said he has found temporary housing, but is not sure what he’ll do long-term.
“I'm probably going to go in the woods down by the tracks or something, I'm not sure,” he said.
Hudkins said she fears for her safety outside the confines of the camp.
“First thing I packed was my hammer and my billy club and my knife because I don't know what's going to happen to me,” she said.
Lander Nischt said in the statement that, “housing is available for anyone who needs it.” She said anyone needing immediate shelter should call the city’s Infoline at 211 for direct assistance.