We are never going to get off the dime if we can't break down the issue of homelessness in Akron Ohio.
The position of Mayor Horrigan's office is that no one needs to live in a tent in Akron Ohio. We are unlike all other cities in America because we have housing for any homeless person or family who needs it.
That's really an incredible statement, when you think about it. I know of no other city in America that has made such an incredibly bold and audacious claim. Akron Ohio should have zero homeless people. That's amazing.
That's from this April 28, 2018 Akron Beacon Journal article:
Volunteers build small, single shelters for Akrons homeless
No Akron resident should be living in a tent or a shack period; and they dont need to, Ellen Lander Nischt [City spokeswoman ] said in an email. Unlike some other urban communities across the nation, we are very fortunate here in Akron and Summit County to have healthy, stable, clean and safe housing available for any homeless person or family who needs it.
It would seem to me that if a person were able to refute that claim then we might finally be able to have a real conversation about homelessness in Akron Ohio.
The premise of this post is: If I can prove that there is even one single person that does not have "safe housing" available to them then we should be able to therefore admit that we need to talk about the actual issue of homelessness.
Let me give you that one example:
Keith Stahl, the residential service director at Community Support Services is reported in this article to say this:
One client left Stoney Pointe Commons, a housing complex with rooms for the homeless. She was paying nothing but couldnt take the rules, Stahl said.
He is talking about a woman who lived in our tent village for quite some time. She was part of our community and did quite well with us.
Fortunately, she was given the opportunity to move into Stoney Pointe Commons free of charge.
Stoney Pointe is an amazing facility. It's brand new. Truly, I believe it is nicer than the 2 bedroom apartment I live in.
Stahl said she "couldn't take the rules."
That's not exactly true.
I've spoken with this woman and she is willing to go on video to tell the real reason she left Stoney Pointe.
She told me that the reason she left was because women were being repeatedly raped with blunt instruments in the building. She felt unsafe and needed to leave.
I have reviewed the crime logs of Stoney Pointe. There are some minor issues that go on there. But I saw nothing that referenced anything as heinous as what this woman described.
The other part of this story is that this woman will readily admit that she has schizophrenia, among other mental health issues.
I don't want to totally discount what she told me. But I think there is a high likelihood that these things were a product of her mental health condition. I work with many people that recount brutal sexual attacks that are simply not reality.
So, if the primary reason this woman left was because she believed she was unsafe then why did Keith Stahl say she left because she "couldn't take the rules."
It is widely reported that Keith Stahl and Mayor Horrigan are friends. So, it's not out of the question that he is just supporting his friend's position on homelessness.
But the reason doesn't matter all that much.
The end result is that the public relations position for all those involved in the Akron monolithic homeless service system is that the homeless are the only ones to blame for their own homelessness. No one should be homeless in Akron. The only reason anyone is homeless in Akron is because they have chosen to be homeless.
We blame the victim here in Akron. It's the homeless person's fault. The only reason they are homeless is because they CHOOSE to be homeless. They love to use that word, "choose."
The homeless position of the Dan Horrigan administration is that there is not one single case anywhere in his city where a person can't be housed. Not one sex offender. Not one drug addict. Not one former meth cook. Not one former arsonist. Not one person with any mental health condition no matter how severe.
Every single person can be housed in Akron Ohio.
I actually believe we could one day become that city. However, we are far from that today. In fact, we are much further behind our northern neighbor, Cleveland. They are doing much better work addressing their difficult homeless cases than we are.
And as long as our leaders believe or lie to us about how we can house ALL homeless people our homeless condition is actually worse than any city that admits they have a real homeless problem.
Akron Ohio is an addict that can't admit it has a problem. Akron is addicted to a lie.
Here's the thing of it all: I'm a big fan of Community Support Servies (CSS). They are the only homeless service provider that continues to come to our facility and works with our homeless population.
This is the statement they make on the home page of their web site:
Community Support Services: Helping you achieve a healthy mind and body while supporting you to live and work in your community.
Building communities of hope where mental and physical health are treated equally.
CSS is a mental health facility. And quite a good one, I may add.
But here they have a woman with significant, known mental health issues that they couldn't house.
If CSS can't keep a person like this in a facility how are we to expect anyone else to be able to do it?
At our facility, we are forced to put restraining orders on people with mental health issues regularly.
There is a man we just had to do this to. He believes people continually are trying to rape him in his sleep. Men and women. It's a repeated issue he believes. This is a problem because he is very strong and can be violent. He has attacked people that he believed were trying to rape him. This story is so recurring that I simply do not believe it. (Although I believed it the first time I heard it.)
For our safety we simply cannot have him around.
I'm dealing with this in one of our houses too. We currently have a man who will not leave. He has cut the cords off of a TV and an air conditioner (I'm not sure why.) He has middle of the night extreme religious events with people he invites into the house that we don't know and he's not allowed to have come in. His "wife" is now living in his room with him. I can't get her out now. He climbs though the window to get in the house instead of using the door. He is simply too big of a condition for us to handle. We are now working with the police to help us remove him.
If you don't have a mental health issue when you become homeless you certainly will acquire one along the way.
Drug use is just a product of the extreme mental health issues homeless people face. They are self medicating.
Keith Stahl knows this.
But why did he say she left because she "couldn't take the rules?"
It's OK to admit we all have a problem. It's OK to admit that homelessness is a complicated condition that no one in the world has truly begun to investigate and experiment with.
Lying either to ourselves or our constituents only makes the situation worse.
Mark my words: Come hell or high water, Akron Ohio is going to be know as the Recovery City of America.
People will come here from all over the world, rich and poor, to get treated for any condition that requires recovery.
We will be the epicenter of innovation, experimentation and the latest recovery methods. (And Dan, with that will bring a lot of money.)
Just sit with that for a moment: Akron: The Recovery City.
We are the home of AA. And we will be the home of all things recovery.
But first, we, as a city, must recover ourselves. We must admit we have many real problems that no amount of new parks is going to solve. No entertainment district, no matter how spiffy, is going to get at the root of our issues.
Akron has the second highest concentration of poverty in America. We have many serious problems. We can recover from them. But only if we admit we have the problems in the first place.
No Dan. We can NOT house "any homeless person or family who needs it. That's make believe talk. And no Dan. It is not because these people are just belligerent assholes that won't behave. It is because they have very, very serious issues that 4 walls and a roof can't always solve.
Let's get serious and fix our problems.