A young boy, 5, (name withheld) plays dead outside of Tent City in Akron, OH, where roughly 50 of Akron’s homeless live. Both of the boy’s parents are homeless. According to the US Census Bureau, 25.4% of Akron’s population lives below the poverty line.
Sage Lewis leaves the Akron Municipal Building on Sept 10, 2018, after speaking to City Council, along with many members of the community and Tent City residents. City Council was holding a hearing on whether or not to close down Tent City. One week later, City Council voted to close Tent City, giving until November 23, 2018 to have all current residents in housing.
Tents are seen behind 15 Broad St., Akron, OH
Smoking a hand rolled cigarette inside his tent, Dwight recounts his life of addiction. "I've been all over man. Just go panhandle around the bars. Being honest, tell them I want a beer. Get some beer, go back to the woods and get drunk. I'm past that now. Trying to get back on my feet here."
Dustin opens the door of his tent to retrieve his bible. Many of the homeless who live at Tent City complain that too many of the charities helping homeless people in the Akron area force religion. Dustin is not one of them.
Kevin, who is legally blind and suffers from seizures, sleeps in his tent, while Willie stands outside talking to other residents. Both have been residents of Tent City for over six months, though neither make any attempts to find permanent housing.
Paul Buchanan, 73, sits in his workshop at Tent City. Paul suffers from severe arthritis, and became homeless when he lost his home in a fire. He now runs maintenance for Tent City. "Homeless, it's not hopeless. I'm working on getting another place right now. They can evict me from a house, an apartment, my front porch, but there ain't no way in hell I'm getting evicted from no damn tent," Paul said when discussing ongoing contention between Tent City and the City of Akron.
George carries a tarp he retrieved from the woods behind Tent City. He used the tarp to waterproof the roof of another resident's tent during a heavy rain storm. During especially cold months, residents insulate their tents with donated blankets. However, the humidity created by sleeping in the tent can cause mold to grow, which poses a health risk.
Herman smokes a cigarette outside the entry to Tent City. Residents and non-residents alike, most of whom are homeless, gather at Tent City during the day. Many smoke throughout the day, littering the ground with cigarette butts. "Most people ask why the homeless are always smoking, why they don't just quit and stop wasting their money. I always want them to think, how easy would it be for you to quit? Then think about all the added stress, mental issues, and health issues that come with being homeless. It's not that easy," Herman said. A retiree, Herman lived at Tent CIty for months before finding an apartment he could afford. He now volunteers at Tent City.
The window of the property adjacent to Tent City is seen in late April. The owner of the property, Samuel Adkins, sued Sage Lewis, owner of 15 Broad St., calling the congregation of tents a “nuisance”. During the summer of 2018, Lewis bought the property. He now allows five homeless people to live in the house, and has requested the city rezone the property to double the legal occupancy.
Dustin sits inside the common room of Tent City, where residents can watch TV, microwave food, and use the WiFi. Everything in the room is donated.
People, all homeless, spend their evening outside the front entrance to 15 Broad St., home to Tent City. Multiple complaints have been made by nearby residents about people loitering on the sidewalk.
A homeless man walks into the basement of 15 Broad Street, Tent City, where residents can take showers, do laundry, and eat.
Following a rain storm, sitting under a flood light, a homeless man spends the evening outside, alone, not wanting to go to his soaked tent.
The sun sets on Tent City, showing light coming from security lamps installed by the low income apartment building next door. Multiple complaints about Tent City were filed by residents of that building, ranging from smells, to fights, to drug use and theft.
Sage Lewis checks his glasses before an interview for Channel 3 news after a City Council hearing about the fate of Tent City.
Carrying their belongings, Krystal Emch and Michael Smith leave Tent City on Jan. 3, 2019. The City of Akron issued an eviction notice on Dec. 6, 2018, giving the residents of Tent City 30 days to leave. After City Council voted to close Tent City, a push was made to house the residents. However, not everyone was housed, and those who were not living at Tent City when the vote was taken were not given the opportunity to receive housing. Krystal and Michael were not on the original list, and thus were forced to move back into the woods. “I’m worried this isn’t going to be as safe. Why’d they have to take away the community?” Krystal says to Michael as they walk along the railroad tracks to find a new home.