Something New is in the Air: 
Continuum of Care Part Three – 2009-10-26

By: Katie Sobiech

For those who dream of ending homelessness, hunger and all of the related issues, we need agencies such as the CoC not only to get the ball rolling, but to find solutions to the problems. This organization is taking tremendous steps not only to alleviate the temporary pains homelessness, but to completely wipe it out.

Some would say that they are dreaming big, but more than dreaming, they are achieving their goals.

Realizing there is no easy solution or quick fix, they have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into creating committees and accomplishing well thought out plans.

The Importance of Working Together

One valuable lesson the CoC learned is the importance of individuals and agencies working together. It may sound simple, but it makes a profound difference.

Sue Pierson, Vice President of InfoLine, says it best, saying “I think the beauty of the CoC is that there are a lot of reasons why someone might be homeless, and we have a lot of expertise in the Akron area to deal with folks who have some specific issues. Nobody’s issues are exactly the same. They are all different. Each of our agencies has a different kind of expertise to make sure that the folks they work with get specific care that is going to meet their needs.”

If homelessness will ever be broken, sharing knowledge and resources, and the community working together is the only way to get there.

Can the Cycle of Homelessness be Broken?

“Five years ago I would’ve said yes, if there are appropriate services in place for the special needs populations, the mentally ill and substance abuse populations,” Helen Tomic, Akron City Planner, said.

There is a chronically homeless group that typically has some sort of issue associated with the reason they are on the streets.

“If all of the services are in place and housing is available then I think we could address the needs of the chronically homeless population – if they want assistance,” Tomic said.

But, “There are those who are perfectly happy living on the streets,” she continued.

Serving the Homeless in Akron

“This community has been blessed with a number of soup kitchens and churches that provide food; lunch and dinner everyday,” Tomic said. “When I was at the Haven of Rest someone said ‘Shame on you if you go hungry in Akron’, because there is always someone providing food.”

The economy is another factor, affecting whether or not the homeless can turn their lives around.

“Even if you have a four year degree in college it’s hard to find a good paying job, whereas I cannot imagine what it would be like going for a job if you only have your High School degree or GED,” Tomic said.

“There are many things happening right now that are impacting homelessness and will continue to in the next couple of years,” she continued.

A New Wave of Homelessness

“What we’re starting to see now is a new group of homeless people coming into the system who have never been in the system before,” Pierson said.

These include those who lose their homes after losing their jobs, due to the economy.

“These people are shell shocked, bewildered, and angry,” Pierson said, “because they have always been in a stable environment. I say to people ‘If any one of us got thrown out of our houses tomorrow and had to live on the street we wouldn’t make it because we don’t know how to live like that’.”

CoC Needs

Every one of the agencies that the CoC works with can use time and volunteers; doing anything from painting to fixing stairs.

“Many homeless people come with just a suitcase, so they’ve got to set up an entire house,” Pierson said.

This makes furniture very valuable. Also, clothing to wear to job interviews. Each of the top agencies have newsletters stating their particular needs.

Another idea: churches have adopted apartments for the Battered Women’s Shelter, so if churches would begin adopting apartments for other agencies, it would help pave the way to end homelessness.

If you or your church is interested, please contact Sue Pierson 
at 330-762-5627

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