Akron nonprofit provides second chances and place to stay for homeless people

It is literally a breath of fresh air for the people of an Akron community.

In a few hours, the crews will open a housing center to help people struggling with mental illness and homelessness.

It’s called the Naomi Project, and it’s built to help those get back on their feet and find long-term stability.

This comes at a time when mental health cases have increased across the United States and right here in the greater Cleveland area.

“We’re just finding a way to help people the best we can,” said Michael Gaffney, director of marketing and development for Community Support Services.

At first glance, the area may look like a big empty lot to some.

But for many who will come here in the future, it means promise, peace and security.

“People get a second chance to improve their lives,” Gaffney said.

With a little love and hard work, the vacant space along Allyn Street in Akron will turn into the Naomi project.

When completed, it will provide eight permanent, supportive housing units.

The one-bedroom apartments are part of the Community Support Services Tented Housing program that helps Akron’s homeless population find stability and a place of their own.

“We just try to be there as a voice and a vehicle to help people do what they need to do,” Gaffney said.

The housing project became a reality after several community agencies, including CSS, Summit County Land Bank, Joanna House II, City of Akron and Tober House, worked together.

LaSalle Harris, now a CSS employee and once homeless herself, began working on the concept a decade ago.

She established the non-profit Joanna House II which offers several community services, including a greenhouse where fresh fruits and vegetables are grown on the same property.

Its success story has inspired many.

“There’s a lot of desperation among homeless people and when they see this stuff happening and get interested in it, they think maybe I can be like that too,” Gaffney said.

A tax credit program through the state of Ohio helped fund the project.

Gaffney says it’s worth every penny and the sky’s the limit for those who want to change their lives.

“They can come in here and make it a home for themselves and improve whatever they need to improve their lives.”

The crews will inaugurate the Naomi project at 3 p.m.

The goal is to have construction completed and residents living there before winter.

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