It has been estimated and recently proven that there are 315 chronically homeless people in Akron alone, sleeping on the streets in tents and abandoned structures. Although Springtime of Hope (SOH) was formed in 2001 to assist the less fortunate in Appalachia, we realized that due to the recent economic downturn, we needed to focus our attention to serve the local needs of those in Summit and Stark Counties.
In November of “2008″, our first mobile outreach unit was formed in Akron to provide food, clothing, tents, sleeping bags and toiletries to those most in need. In “2009″ we expanded our ministry to include Canton and Barberton and today we serve over 800 meals a month operating out of St. Bernard – St. Mary’s School in Akron and Lakeview United Methodist Church in Barberton. An independent ecumenical organization has taken full responsibility for the ongoing mission in Stark County and is serving nearly 75 meals per week in Downtown Canton. We have also expanded into being able to provide a “full service” clothing center in Akron and Barberton that provides the same items we did in our trailers a few years back and more. This portion of the ministry continues to grow at a pace that concerns all of us, but the reward is knowing we are providing necessities to those in dire need.
SOH compiles bi-weekly data that we provide to HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) of Summit County, which they use to monitor the growing needs in our local community. Many of the people we serve are agnostic during these troubled times dealing with broken relationships, conflicts or negative experiences from their past. Our Wednesday and Friday Night Outreach Ministry allows us to show the people we serve how much God loves them by acting as his disciples, feeding the hungry and clothing the less fortunate, no matter saint or sinner. This is why it is important to minister to the less fortunate with our hands before we minister to them with our lips.
SOH’s goal is to make an impact on this population, and with the hundreds of volunteers we have helping during our food and clothing ministry, and our generous donors supporting our cause, we have been able to build on a foundation that will continue to prosper. We realize that this important part of our mission “bridges the gap” between SOH and the homeless and puts us into a perfect position to begin to move them towards a sustainable lifestyle preparing them for a “better quality of life.”