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Thursday, June 14, 2018

ACLU of Ohio, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Others Implore Akron Planning Commission to Protect 'Second Chance Village" Homeless Camp

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 3:00 PM

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The Akron Planning Commission tomorrow will take up the fate of the Second Chance Village, a small nonprofit and band of homeless people who have lived in tents on the property of Sage Lewis, a local businessman who opened his land to them and  installed toilets, a kitchen and security cameras to facilitate their encampment.

It's been the subject of a lawsuit from a neighbor and endless rancor, especially because of its location. As the Akron Beacon Journal's Doug Livingston wrote, "The building now bustles with homeless people in the heart of a neighborhood poised for development. After decades of decline, private and public investment are gelling at the nexus of Arlington, Market and Exchange streets with road projects, new shopping centers, housing developments, a neighborhood development corporation and, soon, a new fire station."

Akron has argued that it's an illegal campground, a contention likely to be at the heart of tomorrow's meeting where residents of Second Chance Village will likely show up in numbers to tell city officials just how much the community has meant to them.

Today, the ACLU of Ohio, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, other nonprofits and an assortment of local urban planning, law and housing policy professors sent a letter to the city of Akron imploring them to protect the village and cease the needless, cruel harassment of the homeless who have sought safety and security, with the permission of the property owner, at the camp.

We are scholars of housing policy, urban planning, community development, sociology, and law. And we are nonprofit and advocacy organizations that work for justice for everyone. We write, together, to provide a unified voice in support of Second Chance Village. Second Chance Village is a last resort for people who have been pushed out of other parts of the City. Encampments such as Second Chance Village save lives. Disbanding this sanctuary would jeopardize the safety of its residents and would be illegal.

The City of Akron has spent far too much time over years attempting to criminalize and exclude people experiencing homelessness. For several years, the City has descended on encampments, seizing everyone’s belongings, including donated tents, blankets, personal mementos, legal documents, and other prized personal possessions. The Kramer Legal Clinic at Case Western Reserve Law School previously filed a suit, arguing that this practice violated the Constitution. The City settled, paying for the damage it caused and agreeing to a protocol before disbanding encampments in the future.

When harassing encampments in the past, the City argued they were unlawful because the property owner did not agree to house an encampment. But, now that a property owner has generously welcomed his neighbors — providing facilities and trying to accommodate the concerns that neighbors and the City had — the City concludes people seeking shelter are not welcome there, either. We write to change the City’s view. 
The full letter with supporting arguments and evidence is below.

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