Homeless in RI: Armory shut, new beds, Dignity Bus moving on, 300 Latino migrants from NYC?

Dignity Bus possibility “ends”

After the failed “Dignity Bus” that garnered so much coverage on a busy news day yesterday, (see story here: the Department of Housing released this statement:

“The Department of Housing produced a purchase order that was consistent with the state’s Request for Qualifications (RFQ) (published in January) and presented that purchase order under the terms that were expected all along. Recently, the vendor significantly changed the terms, for example, related to ensuring that the bus pass a Rhode Island inspection prior to purchase, making the terms inconsistent with the RFQ. The vendor specifically was requiring payment before the bus was inspected and cleared as compliant with Rhode Island code. As stewards of taxpayer dollars, and given safety considerations, we did not find this demand to be acceptable. We remain open to revisiting this idea – in collaboration with potential host communities – under the right conditions.”

While that might sound like Rhode Island is open to moving forward, The Source CEO wrote to us:

We are moving on from this. We wish you guys all the best!”


RI Foundation and the Dignity Bus

In their exhaustive publication “Housing Supply and Homelessness in RI”, published in early April, the RI Foundation noted the Dignity Bus as part of their innovative solutions.

The Foundation went on to describe some immediate solutions, which included the bus as but one under consideration (see chart below).

The Foundation’s report came out without much fanfare, yet provides a detailed resource that would be helpful for the state to follow as it deals with a homeless situation that might be more intricate than it dealt with in the cold of winter when a dozen people living on the RI State House steps were the biggest concern.

Anthony Zorbaugh, CEO of The Source provided us with confirmation among RI Foundation and state officials, refuting any description of the bus as too old or with too many miles, having been confirmed after RIPTA mechanics had seen it, etc.

Note: Bazl is with RI Foundation. Gary Mosca is with the Purchasing Dept. for the state. McIntyre is also with Purchasing. Emails have been removed.

From: Bazl Taliaferrow-Mosleh
Sent: Monday, May 15, 2023 10:19:32 AM
To: Tony Zorbaugh
Subject: Dignity Bus Tentative Selection Letter Requirements Confirmation

From: Mosca, Gary (DOA)
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2023 2:14 PM
To: Bazl Taliaferrow-Mosleh
Cc: Neil Steinberg ; Tony Zorbaugh ; McIntyre, Nancy (DOA)
Subject: RE: Dignity Bus Tentative Selection Letter Requirements Confirmation

I Bazl, confirmed receipt. 

From: Bazl Taliaferrow-Mosleh
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2023 1:31 PM
To: Mosca, Gary (DOA)
Cc: Neil Steinberg; Tony Zorbaugh; McIntyre, Nancy (DOA)
Subject: Dignity Bus Tentative Selection Letter Requirements Confirmation

Hello Gary, In advance of the deadline tomorrow may you confirm the state has all of the necessary documents required by The Source as highlighted in the Tentative Selection Letter? For quick reference I have reattached the requested items 

Hello Gary, 

In advance of the deadline tomorrow may you confirm the state has all of the necessary documents required by The Source as highlighted in the Tentative Selection Letter? For quick reference I have reattached the requested items here, provided by The Source – please confirm receipt.

Media continuing the story

WPRO’s Gene Valicenti interviewed Anthony from The Source detailing his interactions with RI, going back to November.

Gene’s interview with Stefan Pryor:

Woonsocket City Council

City Councilwoman Gonzalez spoke with Gene Valicenti indicating there was unanimous support for the Dignity Bus. Gonzalez, who called in from Florida, says she had visited with the vendor and went on the bus. Woonsocket Councilwoman Valerie Gonzalez called in to WPRO on Tuesday – says the community wants the bus – 100% of the city council, etc. and they are going to work on getting the bus. Posting the audio of the interview later today. Woonsocket spent $140K housing 30 people for 30 days – so there is money from ARPA and from opioid settlement monies.


RI Department of Housing at Armory Closing – and new locations:

The Department of Housing announced today it is funding additional and expanded emergency shelter in various locations, including Warwick, Woonsocket, North Smithfield, and Providence.

With these new and expanded sites, there will be capacity to serve approximately 150 Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness. These shelter resources are especially important given the closure of the Cranston Street Armory Warming Station in Providence today, Monday, May 15. However, the new beds are NOT just for now-displaced Armory “residents”.

The Cranston Street Armory census most recently was below 100 people, down from 200 at its max, and 150 two weeks ago.

Details on the additional shelter options for people experiencing homelessness:

  • OpenDoors RI is opening a new motel program in Warwick today with 55 rooms. 
  • Community Care Alliance will expand shelter operations in hotels with an additional 40 rooms spread among one hotel site in Woonsocket and two hotel sites in North Smithfield. These sites are set to begin accepting new occupants today.
  • Crossroads Rhode Island is adding 10 beds at their facility on Broad Street in Providence starting today.
  • Capacity at Emmanuel House in Providence accounts for a total of 20 currently available beds for individuals.

Not just for Armory people

Because of the way the state’s Coordinated Entry System is structured, it’s not the case that all new beds will be allocated to any one category of Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness (such as individuals at the Armory).

Some sites will be phasing in their capacity this week.

Further expansions of Rhode Island’s emergency shelter capacity are being pursued on an ongoing basis, such as shelter options in Burrillville on the Zambarano campus for 10 families, and more sites are being explored and considered. 

Other shelter opportunities that have expanded from their usual seasonal hours and will remain open now are:

  • OpenDoors RI’s warming center in Pawtucket
  • Catholic Charities at Emmanuel House in Providence
  • Community Care Alliance’s hotel program in Smithfield
  • Crossroads Rhode Island’s couples shelter on Hartford Avenue in Providence; and 
  • WARM’s expanded capacity in Westerly

The Department of Housing said that these efforts toward shelter expansion provide a near-term solution for many individuals and households, but permanent, affordable housing is the essential long-term solution. A new budget amendment to add $29 million in new resources as well as a new state-level low-income housing tax credit have been proposed.


What happened when the Armory closed?

One person, according to Steve Ahlquist of UpriseRI, attempted to pitch a tent in Dexter Park after the Armory closed and police informed him that is not allowed. Ahlquist provided the “man on the street” view of what was happening at The Armory – including noting a woman without legs sitting on the pavement next to her wheelchair not knowing where she was going to go. Another man on the sidewalk with all his stuff piled around him with no staff interacting, but one National Guardsman trying to encourage him to move along.

It is unclear why social worker staff were not stationed outside the Armory, resources in hand, to help the neediest of the needy on this Monday morning.

And – in a response from Housing Secretary Pryor:

Cost of the Armory just in EMS calls estimated to be over $90,000 with 460 calls for emergency medical services reported by the Providence Journal


The Motel 6

The Motel 6 should have approximately 125 homeless individuals with the addition of new residents coming into a facility with 30-45 already living there. When asked about how long the current residents have been there we were told as long as past October, 7 months ago. A spokesperson for one provider, said that they are hoping to have Motel 6 purchased for use, exclusively as a homeless shelter.

300 police calls have taken place since Christmas.


Other hotels

Other hotels announced for development or expansion have “the community taken into account” according to Housing’s Stefan Pryor. “We’re also notifying the municipality for local services.” They include rooms in Warwick, Smithfield and Burrillville, among others.


BREAKING: RI Latino Public Radio announces Latino pastors go to NYC

In a conversation with Tara Granahan on WPRO, RI Latino Public Radio’s Reynaldo Almonte said that several Latino pastors went to New York City to offer to bring back 300 refugees from the border. He noted how ill-prepared RI is for this and noted that some people are involved out of the goodness of their hearts – and others are doing it “for the money”. Almonte said he would relay this to the Governor to see if the pastors could be discouraged from making these offers, recognizing the homeless crisis that is happening at the moment. (Check on WPRO’s podcast page for a link to this interview when it is posted:


Memorial Hospital

Both Amos House and the Housing Department have said they have no further interest in Memorial Hospital to be used for temporary housing for the homeless. The company that got involved in renovating the hospital after there was a water leak when the Amos House program was operating says they have repaired that portion of the building. Memorial Real Estate Group’s lawyer said, “They moved in beds and they are sitting there empty with 55 rooms and capacity for 170 people. ” Kelly said. And it seems like that would be good place for Amos House to be.”


This is a developing story in a regular series


  1. DogMom1113 on May 17, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    First 400 Guatemalans are flown into Quonset in the middle of the night; now this. We don’t have enough resources for native Rhode Islanders. Another boneheaded, brainless Democrat plan? Please stop making our state a campground!

  2. Lesley M. on May 16, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    I’m watching this unfold. Find it odd that 150 people were in the ‘warming’ center (which actually turned out to be a shelter which everyone will deny) and there are suddenly 150 spots. The state denies that it’s for that particular group. Have those spots been filled since yesterday? 150 spots for 1000 who are homeless.
    I think Memorial should be opened. I don’t see the inside but the outside is fine. Being a former hospital, there’s wheelchair access and other needed items.
    What I’m concerned about is McKee’s and Pryor’s ‘want’ to claim land/buildings by Eminent Domain. It’s already codified but they want changes. While that could solve a bit of the problem, any empty space becomes up for grabs. Cranston would be the initial target for the space behind the ACI. Those pallet houses would be up in a flash. Cranston already gives enough ‘services’ to the ACI and Harrington Hall. What others may not be aware of is that some of the Harrington Hall folks are living at the EconoLodge (Days Inn) on Reservoir. The CPD sends out a FB post when one is released and gives the address where they are living. Now Warwick gets the attention – “we need more services, we need more police, we need….” and yet Cranston has been doing this for years without whining. I do wonder what Cranston gets in lieu of taxes. It’s probably not enough.
    Cranston isn’t a NIMBY city. We’ve had these places, including the old institutions, for decades. What we don’t need is more. The State has made us State Central so enough is enough. The City has always reached out as has its residents.
    The bus – if it had to comply with RI Laws on vehicles, the State could have sent trained mechanics down to check it and put a sticker on it. Why is it so difficult to get anything done in this State? That bus could have been a lifesaver for someone. It would have cost the price of a plane ticket to send a mechanic to Florida. Then again, some politician might be cheated out of a free plane ride to some conference. Can’t cheat those politicians out of a free weekend, can we?
    Again (I’ve said this too many times), there are too many hands in this pot. It’s the same thing whether a developer wants to build or a store wants to open. There are 5 committees for a project and not one of them communicates with the other. This is why people say that government is too big. Everybody wants a piece of the pie and the pie never fits together.

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