Due to rapid industrialization and growth at the beginning of the 20th century, Barberton gained the moniker ‘The Magic City.’ However, as manufacturing and industry began to subside in the 1970s and 1980s, city leadership had to devise a plan for future development. Three values truly describe the vision for Barberton since then: rebirth, rejuvenation, and resilience. These values are exemplified in the highlighted projects that residents, community partners, and elected officials undertook to see Barberton regain its ‘magic’ and become a healthier, vibrant city for all.
Fair Housing for All
Understanding that resilient neighborhoods rely on safe, stable, and fair housing for all, residents and officials within the City of Barberton made it a priority to increase the availability and awareness of fair housing education and resources.
Multiple census statistics, coupled with public input from various residents and agencies within the city, led to the city adding fair housing services to all Barberton residents as an objective for community development.
The city began using federal funding from the Community Development Block Grant program to aid in community and fair housing initiatives. The Planning Department began by providing two training opportunities, the first for landlords and the second for sub-recipients of city-dispersed Community Development Block Grant funding.
After receiving an overall positive reception, the program was expanded to promote resources for landlords and tenants. Partnering with the Akron Bar Association and Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the City of Barberton provided a Fair Housing Legal Clinic for tenants. During the clinic, individuals were able to ask questions and receive legal advice on individual rights and fair housing practices. In 2019, the City of Barberton expanded its partnership with the Akron Bar Association to review leases, advise on tenant rights, and answer questions on escrow, evictions, and other housing-related issues.
Additionally, city council passed a resolution proclaiming the Month of April as ‘Fair Housing Month’ to affirm the city’s position and goal of eliminating racial segregation and housing discrimination.
Over 600 low/moderate-income households received assistance through Community Development Block Grant funding.
Community-Based Floodplain Management
Like many communities across the country, the City of Barberton is vulnerable to flood based hazards. Since many flood zones occur in residential areas, residents see firsthand the need for proper flood mitigation and preparedness activities. When city officials began to develop strategies to reduce flooding, officials sought buy-in from residents to create an inclusive, community-based floodplain management program.
In 2015, the city implemented its first cohesive hazard mitigation document: The Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. When developing the plan, open public meetings were held to inform residents of the planning and participation process, and citizens could publicly comment on the city’s website.
A portion of the Multi-Hazard Mitigation Program included acquiring properties within the city’s 100-year floodplain that had experienced repetitive flooding and damages. By acquiring select properties through funding supplied by FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the city would demolish the structures located on the properties and create a green space for floodwater storage. The city met with residents to discuss the grant program and gauge general interest. Residents were educated about the grant program and were able to ask questions directly to the Director of Public Service and Stormwater Manager regarding the overall process and next steps. In all, over 46 individuals attended the three meetings regarding the grant program. After learning more about the program, eight out of the fifteen homes eligible under the program volunteered for acquisition and demolition.
To further awareness and education of floodplain and storm water management, the city also distributed 48,000 newsletters and 500 handouts to residents and displayed announcements at the local movie theater and drive-in. The city has also partnered on programs with the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District, various businesses and non-profit organizations to address flooding concerns, water quality issues, and pollution from storm water runoff.
Fighting Hunger through Mobile Meals
In Summit County, there are 82,740 food-insecure people, including 23,320 children. Because hunger is such a widespread issue, multiple organizations and agencies work tirelessly to limit hunger and food insecurity within Barberton. Various nonprofit, religious, and civic organizations locally and throughout the region provide meals and groceries for those in need, but access to these agencies may be a limitation for residents in marginalized communities. To fill in the gaps, the city developed a program to deliver meals to low-to-moderate income residents who do not have any other access to obtaining nutritious meals.
Through funding allocated by the Community Development Block Grant and by partnering with Mobile Meals, the city provided food for low-to-moderate income children, elderly, sick, and disabled residents, all while using a plan provided by a professional dietician.
The program later merged with Family & Community Services, Inc., to expand its mobile initiative, and provide a wider net of services and resources for low-to-moderate income families, including shelters for the homeless, emergency housing services, veteran’s assistance, services for children, aid for domestic violence victims, community outreach, programs for seniors, and full clinical and addiction services.
In 2018, Mobile Meals provided 1,207 meals to 28 low-income residents and in 2019, the city increased funding to provide home-delivered meals, supplements, and nutrition education for 150 residents.
2020 brought significant changes to food access due to economic hardships caused by the pandemic. The city continued to provide the Mobile Meal program and existing organizations continued working to eliminate hunger and food insecurity within the region.