As dusk fell and the temperature dipped, up to 200 men were expected to descend on the Haven of Rest on Sunday night.
A winter storm warning and dangerously low wind chills propelled them toward the beds with weathered brown blankets, flannel pajamas and a dinner of chili and cornbread.
“There’s nothing like this up in Cleveland,” said Marvin Barney, a 53-year-old disabled man from Cleveland as he settled in for the evening. “It’s crowded. But it’s orderly and clean and there’s plenty of hot water.”
With weather reports that called for winds of 15 to 30 mph, gusts of up to 35 mph and temperatures below zero today into Wednesday, staff were preparing for heavy traffic.
While about 60 women and children typically live in the homelike Harvest Home, a nearby shelter for women and children, as many as 200 men were expected on Sunday to be heading for the bunk beds, if they’re lucky, or mats on the floor in the men’s division.
The men get the basics — a meal, shower, church service, laundered pajamas, toiletries and a blue plastic storage bin in which to store their belongings.
Some may be there just to sit out the worsening weather, but some already have been there for months.
Business has been booming at the Christian mission on West Market Street in Akron.
In the year ending in June, Haven of Rest Ministries saw a 4 percent increase in new male clients and a 20 percent increase in females at Harvest Home, the nearby shelter for women and children.
Almost 2,000 new clients came to the mission last year for shelter, clothes or services to help them get back on their feet, said the executive director, the Rev. Jeff Kaiser.
That is part of an equally robust statewide pattern: Throughout Ohio, homelessness grew 7 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.
Almost 14,000 people, 800 of them in Summit County, didn’t have permanent housing when the nonprofit took its yearly point-in-time census.
In Summit County, Haven of Rest is the key shelter for men and one of the few for women.
“They can come in for a night but some stay as long as a year,” said Kaiser, as men began straggling into the shelter’s day room Sunday afternoon to watch football on TV.
A 57-year-old Akron man who didn’t want to give his name said he came to the Haven of Rest in March when he lost his apartment.
He managed to finish his associate’s degree in paralegal studies in August and start his bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Akron, while staying sober for almost a year.
Now he is awaiting word on a low-income apartment and aims to eventually become a writer while supporting himself as a paralegal.
“A lot of good things have happened to me while I’ve been here,” he said. “I have a place to lay my head, to pray.”
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio also is ready to open emergency shelters at community centers or schools because of power outages or other cold-related problems, spokeswoman Mary Williams said.
As of Sunday, the Red Cross had not received any requests to open a shelter, Williams said. “But we are making sure all of our ducks are in a row, gassing up our trucks, checking our water supplies. We have everyone on call.”
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.