Summit County will open a facility for homeless female veterans and their families in upcoming months, County Executive Ilene Shapiro announced in her annual State of the County speech Thursday.
The apartments, to be called Summit Liberty House, will fill a gap in services, Shapiro said in her talk before about 900 people at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.
"As the first female county executive, I am committed to filling that gap," Shapiro said. "In the coming months, we will open a four-unit apartment building for four homeless female veterans and their families."
The creation of Summit Liberty House was among numerous topics Shapiro touched on in her luncheon speech and afterward in a question-and-answer session — including saying she will be running for re-election.
The Summit Liberty House announcement came near the end of Shapiro’s nearly one-hour talk. The facility will be on Arch Street in Akron, with a goal of opening before the end of the year.
Summit Liberty House will be modeled after a Portage County facility for homeless female veterans, Shapiro said.
The first fundraiser for the house is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Akron Civic Theatre, she said.
Shapiro, former County Council president, was initially appointed county executive following the August 2016 death of former executive Russell Pry of complications following colon cancer surgery. She was elected to a full term as county executive later in the year, becoming Summit County’s first woman elected to that position.
"During these past couple of years, we have seen significant change in our community," Shapiro said. "And with that change, a new feeling has emerged and I know you feel it as well. The wind is at our backs. That wind is the culmination of our community coming together to move Summit County in a steady and positive direction, focused not only on the future but also proactively solving the challenges we face today."
The state of the county is stronger than ever, she said.
Even so, county government has struggled with cutbacks in state funding, she said. While state funding has dropped over the years, county government does not expect to tap its rainy day fund this year, she said.
Shapiro praised the recommendations from the Summit County Jail Operations Advisory Commission that were released Monday. The county is moving to adopt the recommendations to improve inmate and staff services as quickly as it can, including the installation of 243 cameras, complete with audio recording capability, in the jail, she said.
Shapiro said she soon plans to introduce legislation to designate Glenwood Jail as a community alternative sentencing center run by Oriana House. That will free up 16 sheriff deputies to relocate to the county jail, she said.
Shapiro also said her administration has made it a priority to improve diversity in county government and its boards and commissions. New hires and promotions in unclassified management and at-will jobs have been 44 percent women, 33 percent people of color and 11 percent people who identify as LGBTQ, she said.
In addition, 54 percent of new appointments to 54 county boards and commissions have been people of color, she said.
"When people feel heard and represented, it is a huge step toward success for all of us," Shapiro said.
Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ