Jared: I grew up on a maple syrup farm. Well, our family farm was next door to where I lived. I had to get up early and do all our chores. It depended on the season, what I had to do. Like, in early spring, we would get the maple syrup ready. It has to be above freezing for the syrup to rise up in the trees.
Lisa: Do you have any family?
Jared: I have a sister and a brother that live in Medina. My dad was also a truck driver for many years. My mom also worked at the Medina Building Department. They ended up getting a divorce around 1990.
Lisa: Do you keep in touch with your family?
Jared: I talk to my mom and brother, mostly. I see them a few times a year for holidays. I don’t really talk to my father much. He wasn’t a real nice guy. He drank a lot. My sister is very busy with her own life and family, so I don’t see her as much.
Lisa: What brought you to Akron?
Jared: I originally came to Akron in 2013 to go to the University of Akron for English. I started school in the fall of 2013. I lived with a friend there on Brown Street.
Lisa: Was this your first time leaving home?
Jared: No. Right out of high school I was stuck living with my father in Columbiana County. I was working and helping, but my father still was never happy with me. He was a mean guy. One night I just left.
Lisa: Where did you go?
Jared: I had money saved. I went to the next town over, bought a bike, and biked all the way to Barberton. It took over 15 hours for me to get there.
Lisa: Where did you live when you got to Barberton?
Jared: At first, on the streets. I would sleep out by Lake Anna. I eventually made friends and would stay at different people’s houses.
Lisa: Did you have a source of income then?
Jared: I would have jobs off and on. I was working at Walmart as a cart pusher when Hurricane Katrina hit. It was like a tropical storm out and I had to push all the carts in all day. It was crazy. I still remember that.
Lisa: This was all before you came to Akron?
Jared: Yes. I lived in Barberton and Norton for years after I left home. I came to Akron to go to college.
Lisa: Did you graduate?
Jared: No. I got really overwhelmed with all my classes and studying and everything. It all just really got to me and I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t have anyone around to really help me. I’ve found out since then that I have high-functioning autism.
Lisa: You have some hearing problems as well; did that make it harder?
Jared: Yes. Just about everyone on my dad’s side suffers from hearing problems. None of us are completely deaf, but we need hearing aids. We carry a gene or something.
Lisa: Now that you aren’t in college, do you have a source of income?
Jared: No. I try to find work, but nothing really good ever happens. I’ve been painting houses recently.
Lisa: When you first left college, where did you live?
Jared: For about a year I lived in a tent in the woods on Furnace Street with a group of other homeless people.
Lisa: Why did you leave there?
Jared: The railroad people didn’t like us there and would always call the police on us.
Lisa: Where did you go after that?
Jared: First I went to another homeless camp. Then they started the tent city on Broad Street and I lived there for about three years.
Lisa: Did you ever try going to a shelter?
Jared: I never liked them. They have so many rules, regulations and restrictions. It’s hard.
Lisa: Did you feel safe out on the streets?
Jared: No. I always kept one eye open, so to speak.
Lisa: Were you hungry?
Jared: I didn’t always have food. I received food stamps, but it was still hard. I would go to different churches and kitchens to eat that serve the homeless.
Lisa: What is your biggest fear?
Jared: Getting killed.
Lisa: What are some of the daily struggles being homeless?
Jared: Where you’re going to sleep, where or if you will eat, who you can trust. When you get with a group of good people, it lessens some of your worries.
Lisa: What do you feel is the hardest thing about being homeless?
Jared: It’s always so much stress. You feel like no matter what you do, you’re never really getting anywhere.
Lisa: What do you feel is the leading causes of homelessness in Akron?
Jared: That’s a difficult question to answer because there are lots of different reasons. A lot of the time multiple reasons.
Lisa: What do you think is the biggest misconception about the homeless?
Jared: That they are all druggies or alcoholics. I’m not, and a lot of others aren’t either. People should give them a chance. Not all of them are bad.
Lisa: Do most people show you kindness or treat you rudely?
Jared: I always treat everyone with kindness and most of the time was treated kindly as well.
Lisa: What does the word “home” mean to you?
Lisa: You’ve lived about half of your life homeless. At this time in your life, where are you?
Jared: In March, right before my 36th birthday, I got an apartment!
Lisa: That’s wonderful! How did you do it?
Jared: Community Support Services helped me. They are still a big help.
Akron Snow Angels are a volunteer-run charity whose mission is to “Spread the Warmth.” Volunteers help the most vulnerable in the Akron area 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 the Akron Snow Angels for several years and frequently meet and talks to the homeless community in Akron.