Akron homeless advocates fight for ‘Tent City’

Akron City Council voted to shut down makeshift homeless camp last month

Akron homeless advocates fight for ‘Tent City’
Rebecca Reeder has been at Tent City since her husband's death. She says she's devastated to think the city could force it to shut down. (Bivins, Brittany)

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - The battle over a makeshift homeless camp in Akron continues.

On Tuesday, Sage Lewis, who owns property on Broad Street and founded The Homeless Charity & Village, announced he was suing the city, along with the Institute for Justice, over the City Council’s decision to deny him a permit that would allow him to continue to house people.

Akron homeless advocates fight for ‘Tent City’

"We aren't here to cause trouble, we aren't here to be a craw in the neck of the city. We are simply here to continue the ball rolling in this process," said Lewis.

Rebeccca Reeder, who has lived at Tent City for a few months, says she never thought she would be homeless, but found herself in a desperate situation, following the death of her husband.

"I was living with my daughter. She got evicted. I was literally on the tree line with my stuff and my two dogs," she said.

That's when she found Tent City.

"This place saved my life," said Reeder. "It did that for a lot of other people here, too."

Rebecca Reeder has been at Tent City since her husband's death. She says she's devastated to think the city could force it to shut down.
Rebecca Reeder has been at Tent City since her husband's death. She says she's devastated to think the city could force it to shut down.

In mid-September, though, the City Council voted not to give a permit to Lewis that would allow him to use the property to house homeless people. Instead, they said they would work with local agencies to house all the people currently on the property within 60 days, giving a deadline for shutting down Tent City by Thanksgiving.

By mid-October, Lewis says about 6 of the nearly 50 people who lived on his property have been placed in housing.

He says he believes the people at local homeless agencies are working hard to place people, and that most occupants of Tent City would prefer to go somewhere warm in the winter. Right now, though, he believes the City Council should let Tent City remain in operation, for those people who have no where else to go.

"I imagine they would imagine this could be a slippery slope, and that's not what we're trying to say here," said Lewis. "We're just saying, we are asking the right to have this property at this time."

Tent City is located on property owned by Sage Lewis, who operates The Homeless Charity and Village.
Tent City is located on property owned by Sage Lewis, who operates The Homeless Charity and Village.

When the City Council voted against issuing the permit in September, it cited complaints about noise, trash, and crime. We walked around the neighborhood, but did not run into anyone who voiced concerns. However, residents of Tent City told us they had heard them.

For her part, Rebecca Reeder says she’s devastated that Tent City could close and she hopes that someting could happen to save it.

“It breaks my heart, because this isn’t--none of us want to be here forever,” she said. “We’re here, we’re in a safe spot, working to get into a place.”

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