For three people who have been living in a vacant school’s doorway, the frustration of their situation hit them head-on Tuesday afternoon.
Knowing they had to abandon their living space adjacent to St. Bernard Catholic Church in central Akron, the two men and a woman tried to set up a camp site in a wooded area northeast of downtown. Soon, however, they were told the land was private property and they would have to leave.
A driver who had volunteered to haul the gear belonging to Mark, 51, George, 31, and his wife then took their tent and bags back to the doorway of the old St. Bernard School.
“We’ve got to get out of here by tomorrow,” lamented Mark, who did not want his last name published. “We’ve got to find a spot to set up the tent and get moved in.”
St. Bernard Parish has given the homeless who have been living in doorways and on fire escapes around the school until today to move out. Some of the people have lived on the grounds for as long as seven years.
Church officials have said they plan to tear down the brick and stone building this fall, probably by Thanksgiving. The old school, built in 1887 and one of the oldest buildings in Akron, has been vacant for a decade.
The Cleveland Catholic diocese and its insurance company have declared the building a safety hazard. Asbestos abatement and other risks require that no people be living in the area, said the Rev. Dan Reed, pastor of St. Bernard.
The church will spend about $200,000 on demolition. A parking lot will replace the building where St. Bernard School was located until 1979.
At any given time, as many as 15 homeless people have lived in the spacious doorway, some of the homeless have said. On Tuesday afternoon, several plastic bags containing personal belongings of those who were preparing to move filled part of the space.
Akron police spokesman Lt. Rick Edwards has said the homeless at the school have caused few problems over the years and that officers routinely check on the safety of the men and women living there.
Reed said the decision to relocate the homeless and raze the school building will not affect the church’s food cupboard, weekly hot meal program or the daily sandwich ministry — known affectionately by volunteers and those who get bagged lunches as “The Bologna House.”
Some of the homeless people already have moved out, Reed said. He has offered to help connect people with agencies in town that can help them, including the Haven of Rest and Community Support Services.
He said utility officials looked over the building Tuesday in preparation of removing services prior to the demolition.
Mark said he hopes someone will give him permission to set up his tent somewhere. He said he rode his bicycle around Akron on Tuesday “trying to find a spot” for a possible camp site. By mid-afternoon, he had not found a location.
The future, he said, is uncertain.
“I don’t know what today is going to bring,” he said.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.