More than 150 Mayflower Manor residents crammed into a Community Room on Thursday afternoon to find out about their future and what steps they will need to take before they are kicked out.
The city announced plans Tuesday to purchase the building and find a developer to redevelop the historic, 82-year-old, former hotel located in downtown Akron. It is now apartments for low-income residents who are either disabled or elderly.
Akron officials and social service agencies called the meeting to answer questions and to assure residents that they do not have to move anytime soon and no resident would be left homeless.
Most of the 250 or so residents said they were shocked to learn of their displacement after reading about it for the first time when they opened the daily newspaper on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to move. This is my home,” said Keith Raymond Greene Sr., 56.
Greene said he used to provide housing and now he needs housing.
He explained that he put a lot of money into two houses, but lost them and ended up broke and homeless.
Greene lashed out at one service agency saying when he was on the other end trying to provide housing, he could never get a return call from Community Support Services. He wanted a guarantee that residents’ calls would be returned.
“We should be able to stay here,” he said. “We have a right to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
He accused the University of Akron of offering the city a proposal to take the property.
“You have an obligation to us as a people to keep us right here not place us somewhere else,” he said.
Karen King, 54, who has lived at the Mayflower for nearly 25 years since her mother died, said she wanted city officials to know how happy she is living there.
“I planned on this being my home until God takes me to his heavenly home,” she said. “Everything is convenient for me. It is close to a bus line and is close to the hospital.”
She was not alone in her feelings.
Manor a safe haven
“I feel safer here than anywhere I have ever lived in AMHA. There is an officer here every night and there are cameras and locked entrances,” said Shirley Ford, 56, who has lived in the building for 13 years. “You don’t hear about any crime in the Mayflower or in the neighborhood by any of the residents. I don’t want to move. This is my home.”
Some in attendance were concerned about getting their needs met when they are forced to move.
“I am in a wheelchair and have a daughter who is a college student who helps me,” said Luvenia Massey, 52. “Will I be able to leave and live somewhere else that will allow housing for me and my daughter who helps me?”
Sam DeShazior, Akron’s deputy director in the city’s planning department, tried to assure residents that their needs would be met, even those who have service animals.
“By law, yes, everyone’s disabilities will be addressed, that is the law, no one can be discriminated against for their disability,” he said. “If you need a seeing eye dog you will be accommodated.”
Some residents were concerned about rules that might preclude them from moving into whatever housing is offered.
A representative from the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority told the residents that there is a seven-year window for those who have been convicted of a crime. AMHA doesn’t allow a tenant who has been convicted of any crime of violence or drug crime within the past seven years.
“The same criteria applies when you applied here and we will work with you,” said Keith Stahl, the director of Community Support Services. “There are other options for affordable housing other than AMHA.”
Some said they were denied AMHA housing, but were welcomed at the Mayflower.
“Will the voucher we have here transfer to another place? This is the only place I was eligible to live in,” said Angie Fawn, 40, who has lived in the building for two years.
“No one will be left out on the street. Everybody will be assigned someone, that each and every special-needs case by case basis taken care of,” DeShazior said.
Fawn also said she is tired of outsiders labeling the building’s residents as lowlifes and loiterers.
“Low income doesn’t equal low class,” she said. “We are disabled and circumstances have made it difficult for us to make a better living but we are not scum.”
Some residents still could not fathom moving. They also wanted to know if they will be allowed to move back should the building be renovated into housing.
Officials told the residents not to make any rash decisions.
“The most important thing for you to walk away with today is — Do not move. Again, do not move now,” said Abraham Wescott, development services manager for the city.
Westcott outlined a process where residents will work with a relocation counselor and case worker to help them through the transition. He said residents will be updated throughout the process.
“Do not move. We are there every step of the way to make sure you get every benefit you choose that you are eligible for to some place decent, safe and sanitary,” Wescott said. “We will be there to help you move from one place to another and minimize the impact of your displacement that includes the emotional and financial impact it’s going to have. We tailor the program for your relocation. You can have anyone you want there with you to discuss your needs.”
Move many months away
DeShazior said the move would take at least 18 months.
“Moving is hard,” Stahl said. “You won’t have to pack every box and rent a mover’s truck. There will be people there to help you. You will guide the process of where you would like to move. What services do you need? How can we improve the quality of your life to make this better? We are going to work hard to make sure your rent doesn’t go up.
“We will help you find that spot that is right for you.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.