Every night in the Akron area, more than 800 people are uncertain of where they will lay their head at night, and as winter approaches, the bitter cold makes this struggle for shelter even more significant for our area’s homeless population.
We interviewed a number of men at a local homeless shelter, and many of them spoke about the positive side of their situations. Like Zachary Harper, who’s been on dialysis for 14 years. Harper, 56, said he was thankful for the shelter’s proximity to downtown hospitals, and his experience at the shelter has helped him to better appreciate his life.
“I want to live,” said Harper. “Being like this for 14 years, contemplating death, and now being down here with this group of fellas; I want to live.”
Andre Sims said the shelter is a place of peace and understanding that one may not find elsewhere. Especially when a man’s identity has been stripped away to the basics. Sims, who has found more stable housing since our interview, is longing for the day when he can live on a farm, with animals and freshly grown food. “My ultimate objective in life is to have my own farm and my own property,” said Sims.
“In the shelter, you’re able to have a clearer understanding,” he added. “I’m just a human being trying to be as positive as possible and create a better opportunity for myself, socially, economically, spiritually.”
Andre Broom, 52, was a fixture among the men, but he isn’t homeless. At least, not anymore. He has a place of his own now, and he comes back to help out at the same shelter that helped him get back on his feet. “I’m not fortunate, but there are those a lot less fortunate than me,” he said.
He’s lived a rough life, having been shot five times, but he says he thanks God for every day that he’s alive. After he was shot, doctors told him he’d never walk again or talk again. “But I’m walking, better than a lot of people,” said Broom. And as for not talking again, he definitely has overcome those concerns.
Along with his love of boxing and of other people, Broom considers himself a poet, as he recites from memory a poem he wrote about his mother after she died.
David, 30, came to the shelter to get away from an unhealthy living situation, one that involved a family of addiction and drugs. He admits to having his own personal addictions, which he’s since resolved. Being at the shelter has helped him better address his basic needs in life. “A lot of us who’ve gotten into this situation, we kind of neglect the basics of life.”
He said shelter life provides him with structure, and when he gets back on his feet, David said he would like to eventually be a full-time minister.
There are a number of ways to help local people facing homelessness. Nonprofit Info Line has a directory of local charity organizations for which you can donate or volunteer.
Read Part I of the series.