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CITING “SERIOUS LEGAL AND POLICY CONCERNS,” ACLU CALLS ON GOVERNOR TO RESCIND NOTICE KICKING PEOPLE OFF STATE HOUSE GROUNDS
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has called on Governor Daniel McKee to rescind a notice requiring all persons currently camping in front of the State House to vacate their property by 9 AM tomorrow or else face arrest. In a letter emailed to the Governor this evening, the ACLU said that the “procedures being used by the state are completely inappropriate and appear to be without a legal basis.”
Among the numerous concerns and issues raised in the letter are these:
* Contrary to promises made to those camping at the State House that they “are being provided with a bed in an emergency shelter,” the state’s system for providing shelter care demonstrates that there simply are not a sufficient number of beds available for every person there, nor would shelters be able to take some of those individuals with disabilities that they cannot accommodate.
* The state is violating federal requirements governing that system, known as the Coordinated Entry System, which is designed to ensure that there is fair and equal access to shelter for those experiencing a housing crisis.
* The state has no formal rules or regulations setting standards or criteria for use of the State House grounds that authorize the notices to vacate.
The letter concludes by stating:
In light of all the serious questions raised by the State’s misleading notice, the questionable process being implemented to remove individuals, the unavailability of promised shelter space, the lack of any formal regulations prohibiting the campers’ presence, and the State’s non-compliance with essential CES standards, we ask that the 48-hour vacate notice issued yesterday be rescinded, and that no further action be taken against those peacefully camping at the State House until these various issues can be examined and addressed in conformance with due process and federal and state law. We trust that, under all these circumstances, the State is not so callous as to take the rushed action it has threatened when there is no urgency whatsoever in doing so.
Depending on the state’s actions tomorrow, the ACLU of RI will consider possible legal action on behalf of people who end up being adversely affected.
Local attorney Richard Curley has filed a restraining order against the removal action and a hearing is set for this morning.
The Governor has confirmed receipt of the notification from the RI ACLU but issued no other statement as of this time. Those residing at the RI State House in a tent encampment were given notices that they had to leave no later than 9am, December 9th. Every person leaving was promised a shelter bed. Some 7 men have already taken the offer and are now residing, according to sources, at Emmanuel House, an emergency shelter open 6pm to 7am for men only, run by the Diocese of Providence. As of December 7th they indicated they still had openings.
In addition to the ACLU strongly worded statement, spokespeople for the RI Coalition for the Homeless have spoken out, primarily on talk radio, critical of the Governor’s plans saying putting those at the State House in higher priority for housing and bumping others off the CES list is not fair and equitable. The Governor has questioned the “80” number given as the number of encampments (homeless groups of two or more living outside) in Rhode Island and has asked for the data to be accurate so appropriate beds can be accurately obtained.
The Cranston Street Armory was approved for occupancy of no more than 100 people by the state Fire officials with the proviso that 4 repairs be made immediately with the balance of 35 other repairs being worked on on an ongoing basis. Unconfirmed reports are that no agency has responded to the Governor’s request to run that location as an emergency shelter, or warming station, as they refer to it. Portable bathrooms and showers and other supplies must be brought in to the facility. There is no running water available in that part of the Armory. There has also been opposition in the local neighborhood for its new intended use. Agencies question the cost to them of running the shelter and their ability to staff-up for the new program. Deadline for agencies to respond is now December 15th, with any use of the Armory pushed back to a time after that.
This is a developing story. Please refer to our Facebook or Twitter page for updates this morning and throughout the day.
UPDATE 12/9 pm – Statement of the Governor’s Office: “Our number one priority from the beginning has been to help the those camping at the State House get into a warm shelter and off the streets. Over the past several days, we have been able to provide safe shelter for many of these individuals and couples. Based on significant outreach done at various times during the day over the last 48 hours, we estimate that of the approximately 17 adults outside the State House as of Wednesday morning, less than 10 remain. We will continue to work to connect them with safe shelter.”
The full text of the letter is below: