Federal grant will help establish phone line to aid Summit County homeless in finding place to stay

AKRON, Ohio - A $120,000 federal grant will help social service agencies in Summit County establish a new phone line and clearing house to help people who are homeless.

The program doesn't have a name yet and the phone number likely will not be activated until March or April.

But Fred Berry, housing services manager for Info Line Inc., said the phone line will create a centralized approach and could make a big difference in helping the homeless find services, a shelter or a home.

"I think what we'll see is that people will spend less time in the streets and in crisis. They'll spend less time in emergency shelters and in transitional housing programs," Berry said.

On Tuesday, with wind-chill temperatures below zero, volunteers hit the streets in an effort to count the homeless in the Akron area.

They found about 800 living in shelters and nearly 150 living on the streets in the bitter cold.

"It's disheartening to know that there are folks out there that, regardless of circumstances in their life or wherever they are in their journey, are without safe, affordable housing," Berry said.

Fifty-three-year-old Mark Cooper, an Army veteran, has been homeless for six years. He has been living at the Haven of Rest, an Akron shelter, for the past few months. He was happy to hear about the phone line and plans to use it once it's operational.

"I don't know what I'm doing. I go day by day. I don't know how to get any help or nothing," Cooper said.

About $4 million is divided among several Summit County agencies to provide assistance to the homeless each year.

The grant to operate the phone line and clearing house to assist the homeless was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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