Interviews with Akron homeless, previously homeless, and those still struggling
by Lisa Kane
You’ve probably heard of the Homeless Charity Village on Broad Street. It’s been in the news a lot lately. This place is often referred to as Tent City. The residents have been fighting to keep their community. But in September, Akron’s City Council voted against letting the 43 people living there stay. They have to be gone by Thanksgiving.
Tony is one of my friends who lives in Tent City. I have known him for about a year now. Tony runs a tiny little kitchen there, in which he prepares food for 40 to 50 hungry people every day. In the summer he grills, and it always smells delicious. He organizes fundraisers for different groups. Tony is homeless and has no income at this time.
Lisa: So, Akron is your home town?
Tony: Yep. [Middlebury] is my neighborhood [and] where I grew up.
Lisa: What is your occupation or source of income?
Tony: Right now, I have no source of income. I give all my time to charity and helping others who need it.
Lisa: Did you have a previous occupation?
Tony: I was a warehouse manager.
Lisa: Why don’t you have a job?
Tony: I spend all my time here [at The Homeless Charity Village]. This is what I want to be doing right now — helping people who need it.
Lisa: How long have you been homeless?
Tony: Since May of last year.
Lisa: What led you to homelessness?
Tony: My cousin died in April of last year and I relapsed.
Lisa: Where did you sleep last night?
Tony: At my girlfriend’s. She was living here too, but [moved] into an apartment.
Lisa: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Tony: Usually around five to six hours.
Lisa: Do you usually have three meals a day?
Tony: I don’t really eat that much. I just feed everybody else.
Lisa: How many people do you feed every day?
Tony: Around 40 to 50 on a regular day.
Lisa: Do you feel safe?
Tony: At the tent village I feel safe.
Lisa: What can people find you doing during the day?
Tony: Running around the kitchen. I’m cooking, going out and getting the donations, organizing things in the kitchen, and just helping do whatever needs to be done.
Lisa: What are some of your daily struggles being homeless?
Tony: The weather.
Lisa: What do you feel is the hardest thing about being homeless?
Tony: The hardest thing about being homeless is the criticism from everyone. People who don’t even know anything about you.
Lisa: What three words would you use to describe being homeless?
Tony: That’s a hard one. You always just worry about how people are going to treat you. The way they think you are. That every homeless person is lazy, and [that they] don’t do anything. That all you are looking for is an easy handout.
Lisa: What do you feel is the leading causes of homelessness in Akron?
Tony: Probably drugs and alcohol and just misfortune.
Lisa: What does the word “home” mean to you?
Tony: A house. Well, not actually a house, but just that security.
Lisa: What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week?
Tony: My girlfriend got an apartment! I guess that actually makes it the best thing that’s happened to HER. (laughing) I’m happy for her.
Lisa: Is there anything that you really need right now, besides the obvious?
Tony: Income. I have a baby due next month.
Lisa: What items do you need for the baby?
Tony: We need a stroller and bottles. Someone came down here and helped us out by getting us a car seat.
Lisa: Is there anything else you want people to know about you, or about being homeless?
Tony: People need to take the time to talk or be around someone to understand what they go through. If you’ve never talked to a homeless person, how can you judge them? Just because we don’t have a house doesn’t mean we aren’t people.
The Akron Snow Angels is a volunteer-run charity whose mission is to “Spread the Warmth.” Volunteers help the most vulnerable in Akron by providing basic essentials like hats and coats, along with fostering compassionate friendships. Learn more at akronsnowangels.com.
Lisa Kane has been on the board of Akron Snow Angels for several years and frequently meets and talk to the homeless community in Akron.