With the frigid temperatures settling in these past few days, Akron and Summit County are looking into new ways to help the homeless find shelter.
A $120,000 federal grant will help establish a new phone line and clearing house to help Summit County social service agencies aid those who are homeless and help them find shelter.
News Channel 5 cameras caught up with 53-year old Army veteran Mark Cooper, who has been homeless for six years. He says the phone line is a good idea and that he plans on the using it once it's up and running.
"I don't know what I'm doing. I go day by day. I don't know how to get any help or nothing," Cooper explained.
The new program doesn't have a name yet and the phone line likely won't be activated until March or April.
Cooper says the sub-zero temperatures have been extremely rough on him as well as other homeless individuals.
"I know of a guy who had to go to the hospital because he had pneumonia," he said.
Volunteers took to the streets Tuesday in the freezing conditions to find out how many homeless people are in the Akron area.
They found approximately 150 living on the streets and about 800 living in shelters in the cold.
Housing Services Manager for InfoLine Inc. Fred Berry spoke about this ongoing issue, saying the phone line will be beneficial to the community.
"I think it's disheartening to know that there are people out there regardless of their circumstances in life, or wherever they are in their journey are without safe, affordable, housing," Berry said.
He (Berry) says the phone line will create a centralized approach and help homeless individuals find shelter or a permanent home.
"I think what we'll see is less people on the streets and in crisis. They'll spend less time in transitional housing programs and emergency shelters."
Approximately $4 million is divided amongst the various Summit County agencies to provide assistance to the homeless each year.
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The City of Akron will look to use federal funds to hire 12 new police officers with military backgrounds to help patrol the streets.
Public Safety Chair and Ward 9 Councilman Mike Freeman says $1.5 million from the U.S Department of Justice would be used to bring in the officers.
"The approximately 12 new officers hired under the grant must be veterans that served in active duty on or after September of 2001," Freeman said.
Akron City Council unanimously voted on the agreement between the city and the Federal Government to implement veterans into the police force through a grant from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.
Akron Councilman Mike Freeman by Akron NewsNow
The city says once the civil service exams are given, those personnel, some of whom have served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan will have an opportunity to obtain a full-time job with benefits once they return to the States.
Freeman says the program is an excellent way of showing the veterans appreciation for their service to our country.
"We just think it's a good way to honor the veterans and show them we appreciate this," Freeman explained.
"The city voted on something like this a few years ago and it went very well, and we just look forward to seeing these new hires come on."
The councilman says that having these veterans, who are already trained in conflict resolution and other disciplines will be ready to handle the rigors of being an Akron police officer once they are hired.
In June, U.S Senator Sherrod Brown helped the city secure the grant to bring the veterans to the workforce and have them serve the community as members of the APD.
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