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Eviction Prevention Summit attracts hundreds in Akron

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Apr 28, 2022

AKRON, Ohio — LaTanya Tyes knows the stress of losing her home. In 2018, the single mother of two got sick, became hospitalized, fell behind on rent, and got evicted.

"I came home from the hospital. My house was locked up so it was really, really terrible," Tyes said. "When you have to look at your children in their face and you can't help them because you can't even help yourself, what do you do?"

Because of her illness Tyes, a nurse, couldn't go back to work and moved in with her mother. With an eviction on her record, she struggled to find another place of her own.

"It caused my anxiety level to be extremely high. I had a lot of nights that I cried," she said.

Tyes, who eventually found an Akron apartment complex to call home, was among nearly 400 hundred people who attended the Eviction Prevention Summit at the John S. Knight Center in Akron.

The event brought together renters, landlords, housing advocates, developers, public officials, nonprofit and for-profit leaders, and community members to come together to share experiences, learn from each other, and design innovative and collaborative solutions to forge a new pathway forward toward housing security and freedom.

Several breakout sessions were held in which groups offered ideas on how to reduce the eviction rate and improve tenant/landlord relationships.

"The issue of evictions became a public health issue with the eviction moratorium and really became an issue that a lot of people were aware of, so instead of focusing on education, we decided to focus on solutions," said Steven McGarrity, executive director of Community Legal Aid.

In recent years, Akron has been referred to as the eviction capital of Ohio after a study by Eviction Lab found the city had the highest eviction rate in the state and the 24th highest rate in the country.

"It's hard to see national press about your community and see yourself put in that light as the eviction capital," McGarrity said.

Statistics provided to News 5 by Community Legal Aid show there were 4,700 evictions in Summit County in 2019. During a federal moratorium, evictions dropped to 2,472 in 2020 and 3,390 in 2021.

Through March of this year, there have been 950 evictions in Summit County.

McGarrity believes those numbers would be much higher if not for rental assistance dollars keeping people in their homes.

"Part of our hope is in the conversations today is to be thinking about what happens when those rental assistance dollars end. What are we going to do to try to mitigate the effects of eviction?"

Gary Wyatt, who owns several Akron properties, said it's important for the voices of landlords to be heard too.

He said most landlords are good, but got a bad rap as a whole during the pandemic.

"This (summit) is a good first-of-its-kind in Akron. I think that coming together with all different agencies, I think we can really start having a more compassionate way of approaching things," Wyatt said. "I think we can set the model for other cities across the country to look at what we're doing here."

McGarrity said ideas generated during the summit will be compiled in a report that will list solutions for preventing evictions.