I was driving a man across town to a friend's house.
He had stayed at our tent village for a time. But I didn't recall him very clearly.
He is deep in the throws of a hard core Fentanyl addiction.
Fentanyl is 50 times more addictive than heroin and 100 times more addictive than morphine.
He hadn't shot up for 2 hours. He said his stomach was starting to get sick. (It was 6pm.)
He said because he was able to stay indoors that night he wouldn't have to use again until morning. But by then he'd be in full on withdrawal and feeling terrible.
But this is the interesting point:
He said that if he would have had to sleep outside in the cold he would have definitely shot up again. Being outdoors, unprotected from the winter elements and the dangers of the street are just too much to handle as the extreme withdrawal symptoms of Fentanyl started to over take him.
Being warm, in a safe place, enabled him to withstand the severe pains of Fentanyl withdrawal.
I hope by now you've seen the news that Akron is facing highest eviction rate in Ohio and is the 24th highest in the country.
This is incredibly important to the very fabric of our city.
People who are threatened with eviction, even before they lose their home, are more likely to report poor health, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and psychological distress.
They go on to say:
Eviction often leads to residential instability, moving into poor quality housing, overcrowding, and homelessness, all of which is associated with negative health among adults and children.
I was inspired to write about this today because of a conversation I just had with a woman who is forced to evict a person from the duplex she lives in and rents the other side.
The tenant is not paying rent, is bringing a lot of people into the house and is really loud all night long.
She said she is "sick about it."
I know the feeling.
I have had to force so many people out of our transitional houses that sometimes I wonder if I'm making more homeless people than I'm helping.
Hoarding. Drug use. Illegal activities. Hoarding. Not doing any of the program we require. Hoarding. (Did I mention hoarding?)
It's a brutal position to be in for everyone.
I am supposed to be the person trying to fix homelessness and here I am throwing people on the street.
Look at this poverty desert in Akron pulled from here:
If I had to guess, I would suspect you could easily conclude that the places that have the lowest income probably have the highest evictions.
The heart of our city is poor, destitute and evicted.
It only follows that it is also where you are going to see very high levels of serious mental illness and addiction.
The longer I do this work the more it becomes clear to me that addiction is a symptom of a broken, brutal system. It is not a cause.
Addiction is a form of escape and relief from the trauma of their lives caused by living in a city with the highest eviction rate in Ohio and the 24th highest in the nation.
And then there are the water and sewer bills.
Let me make a little chart for you: (the numbers I'm going to show you are in "hcf" - hundred cubic feet). This is what different cities across America are paying for water and sewer:
|$55.40 per quarter - TOTAL
How insane is it that we are paying SO much more for water and sewer than San Diego which is an actual desert and we in Akron live surrounded by the largest body of fresh water on Earth?
Meanwhile, here are the median household incomes for each of those places:
San Diego: $71,535
Lynchburg: $41, 971
Las Vegas: $53,159
And get this:
Lauren Green-Hull, the associate director of Fair Housing Contact Service in Akron said,
"In just the last year, rents have almost doubled in just the city of Akron alone, so a unit that was a three-bedroom unit that would be $1,000 for a family a year ago, is now renting for about $2,000, $2,200."
This is happening simply because there is high demand and low supply.
Instead of fixing up houses in Akron, our administration tears them down.
If you are living above the Akron median household income of $36,223, I beg you to take a minute and imagine how you would feel if you were constantly in a state of worrying if you and your family would be evicted.
Akron is a city filled with terror and trauma.
I hope no one wonders why we have so much addiction and violence. When the system is hopeless and, in fact, the cause of your pain and suffering, of course you are going to take matters into your own hands.
Poverty, evictions, trauma, mental illness and addiction: They all go hand in hand.
No wonder our top 3 employers are hospitals:
We are living in a city of incredible pain and suffering.
This isn't some kind of mild amusement for intellectuals to casually ponder. This is the-ship-is-sinking, all hands on deck, code red, DEFCON 1, cocked pistol emergency.
Akron isn't just in decline. It is rotting from the inside out.
We MUST stop the bleeding immediately. People MUST get a sense of stability and safety before they will ever be able to regroup and get their footing.
These aren't bleeding heart liberal ideas. This is the only way we are going to see a decrease in drug use and violence. This is the only way we are going to stop Akron from becoming a scene out of Mad Max Fury Road where we're all out on the street begging for water:
For the very survival of our city we must take drastic action NOW.
Building parks and roundabouts while our city is burning is utter madness. These are things for cities that aren't dying.
If you think I'm over reacting you truly are not reading the situation correctly.
The more unstable the living conditions become in Akron for low income and no income people the more dangerous and unstable the city becomes for all of us. This then increases white flight pushing higher income earners to the suburbs which then increases the pool of poverty. We are circling the drain.
This is a dire situation.