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After announcing the plan for a “Dignity Bus” to come to Woonsocket, which would provide sleeping quarters for approximately 20 homeless individuals as well as staff, we were informed of changes in that plan.
The bus is a retrofitted bus made by a Florida company, The Source. The bus shelter program for northern Rhode Island was approved for programmatic funding for 6 months by the Rhode Island Foundation. Its purchase was to be by the state. The Community Care Alliance would run the program.
However, all that has changed. The state’s purchase is not going through and spokespeople from The Source are best described as angry and surprised at how the state conducted its business which led to this point. The purchase order was for $160,000.
We checked in with the Rhode Island Foundation first and spokesperson Chris Barnett who had confirmed their funding for the program with us the day before, responded, “We heard about it [not happening] last night. I’ll circle back if there is anything to share”.
We then heard from “The Source”, of Vero Beach, Florida, who is the vendor for the bus: Anthony Zorbaugh, Executive Director of the group contacted RINewsToday and then wrote, “The Dignity Bus will not be coming to Rhode Island due to the housing dept and the Governor’s office. We have been sitting on this bus for over 5 months and jumping over every hurdle they (the state) keeps throwing at us. We have spent thousands of dollars and the state has paid us nothing. It is time we put these beds to use.”
After asking if the program could be saved, Zorbaugh responded, “…due to the back issues we have had with the state, we are not moving forward with them. We have spent thousands of dollars of our operating funds to help your state – and they have given us roadblock after roadblock.
Zorbaugh went on to say, “The Governor’s office went through the community foundation of Rhode Island [Rhode Island Foundation] back in November for us to build a bus. We did that and the state housing dept keeps changing the requirements. We have spent thousands of dollars to help people in your state, and the housing dept (now) wants us to transport the bus to Rhode Island to pass a Rhode Island state inspection. Who asks a builder in another state to do that? At this point in time our Board of Directors have decided that enough is enough, and we will put our bus to use. This is a huge mistake on the state’s part but they are giving you misinformed information. The state should be ashamed on how they conduct business.”
The Source provides a variety of services for the homeless and communities in need, including the bus concept, food trucks, independent temporary pop-up housing, dental and laundry services for transients and a variety of support groups. The group is faith-based but serves all.
Sources close to the purchase deal with the state have said that the Florida vendor’s frustration was warranted, based upon the state’s actions.
Benedict Leesing, CEO of the Woonsocket based Community Care Alliance said “the unhoused population is rising and we need the capacity” – but did not go further.
Multiple requests to the state and the Governor’s office went unanswered following these developments.
This is a developing story.
Purchase Order from the State of Rhode Island:
Work order itemized by The Source:
Entire purchase order provided by “The Source”:
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