After Tent City closes, future of homeless uncertain

I spent some time with Emch and Smith, who are pictured here talking about leaving Tent City and how they plan to hide their belongings and stay out of sight. When I returned to search for them a week later, they were gone.

Nathaniel Bailey

Krystal Emch and Michael Smith carried their belongings as we walked along the railroad tracks, away from 15 Broad St. in Akron, where Tent City once stood.

Krystal held her notebooks, pens and blankets, while Michael carried the tent and the tarps that would form the structure of their new home. 

The two were residents of Tent City until Jan. 3, when property owner Sage Lewis and a group of volunteers tore down the last of the tents on the property.

The city of Akron posted a notice of violation/order to comply Dec. 6 ordering that “all tents, equipment, and miscellaneous material related to the illegal use of the premises as a campground” be removed within 30 days.

After Akron City Council rejected legislation that would have allowed Tent City to remain open as a campground in September, the Summit County Continuum of Care worked with the city to place the 46 residents into permanent housing.

The majority of the people on the list received housing, with exact numbers varying between the city and Lewis. However, the homeless who came to Tent City after the original list was created did not receive the opportunity to be placed in emergency housing. Emch and Smith were among those not on the list.

“This isn’t over. It may look like we lost the battle, but we are going to win the war,” Lewis said as he helped Roger Shortridge move his belongings to the woods. “I’m an atheist, but I really feel like God and me are on this path to solve homelessness. I hope one day we have the tents back here on this property.”

These are a few of the people I spent time with during the cleanup of Tent City.

Nathaniel Bailey is a contributor. Contact him at [email protected]