Housing is the cornerstone of stability for individuals who struggle with addiction, mental health issues and/or unemployment. Homeless by definition is an individual or family living on the streets or in a place not meant for human habitation, an emergency shelter, transitional housing program or safe haven.

We know that people who live in tents, sheds, abandoned houses, cars or other places not meant for human habitation are less likely to attend appointments, take medications as prescribed or gain employment. Failing to follow through with treatment often leads to hospitalizations, interactions with emergency services, ER visits and incarcerations. All of these outcomes are detrimental to the individual and the community.

Our homeless prevention system, better known as the Akron/Barberton/Summit County Continuum of Care for the Homeless, has 1,340 beds available to provide housing for people experiencing short-term or long-term homelessness. The county will have 76 additional beds designed to serve homeless people, not unlike the individuals at the Second Chance Village, available this month.

Summit County boasts a robust system of services and housing options for individuals who are homeless. For the past five years, the county has seen a reduction in the number of people living homeless, culminating in the declaration of functional zero for veteran homelessness.

This past year we have seen an increase in homelessness. In exploring the cause of this increase, it appears the growth and development of the Second Chance Village is a primary factor. Since the opening of the village, our unsheltered homeless population grew by 71 percent in one year.

Like all persons experiencing homelessness, the people staying at the Second Chance Village do not have utilities, running water, sanitary facilities, permanent shelter from extreme weather conditions, a listed address or a way to prepare and store personal food items. Additionally, they do not have a door to properly secure themselves from unwanted visitors in this type of environment.

The Akron/Barberton/Summit County Continuum of Care for the Homeless believes the Second Chance Village is not a solution to homelessness.

As a community, we have paid much attention and directed significant energy to the Second Chance Village with the best intentions. This attention comes from local politicians, reporters, faith-based groups, students, well-wishers and service providers. In our community, we pride ourselves on making a difference and lifting people up in down times.

Our best intentions of delivering a meal or other resources meet the needs of the moment but do not provide a long-term solution. Long-term solutions encourage people to lift themselves up while providing other critical support. It is important to focus on the root cause or the issue that has led to the homelessness episode.

As a collaborative of providers committed to addressing the issue of homelessness in all communities we serve, we have had many conversations with the people involved with the operations of the Second Chance Village. Our focus was to brainstorm alternative options to provide more housing opportunities to the people sleeping in tents that would be safe and sustainable.

We all agreed it is shameful that people are sleeping in tents because it is perceived to be the only option available to them. We have performed and will continue to perform outreach in an effort to engage the homeless there and show them that tents are not their only option.

We have done intakes with many to initiate their transition into permanent housing. Some of our efforts have been successful, but challenges still exist.

The member organizations of the Akron/Barberton/Summit County Continuum of Care for the Homeless do not believe that it is acceptable for people to live in tents, on the streets, in sheds or in other places not meant for human habitation. As stated above, the community has the beds available, the community has the financial support available, and the community has the support services in place and available for every resident of the Second Chance Village.

We cannot support or endorse any establishment that facilitates or encourages living in tents or other places not meant for human habitation. The Continuum of Care for the Homeless will remain committed to providing housing opportunities to all the homeless individuals living in tents at the Second Chance Village. We will continue to engage the individuals and offer permanent housing solutions. However, our outreach can only be successful if we have the full support of those operating and giving to the Second Chance Village.

We welcome new ideas, energy and the commitment to help people achieve housing stability and self-sufficiency. We sincerely appreciate the dedication of those who have sustained the Second Chance Village.

Nevertheless, the homeless people in our community would be best served by the development and support of permanent housing solutions, of which many are already available in our community.

Boddie is the manager of the Continuum of Care for the Homeless. Callahan is the executive director of the Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative. Stahl is the director of residential services at Community Support Services. Berry is the president and chief executive of Humility of Mary Housing. This column reflects the view of 11 other members of the Continuum of Care for the Homeless.