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DaVinci Center appeals for safety, peace and order; Dignity Bus arriving; Cranston encampment m
Photo: Dignity Bus R.I. (gassing up in Georgia, on the road – to Woonsocket)
A press conference will be held Wednesday afternoon to greet the first Dignity Bus to ever come to Rhode Island to help with the homeless issue for the city of Woonsocket. Purchased by Woonsocket from The Source, in Florida, the bus took 2-3 days to make the trip to deliver the custom, retro-fitted bus, which sleeps 20+, with staff. Approximately 4 staff members from The Source have come along to instruct Woonsocket staff on how to operate the bus and will stay for an undetermined time to offer training.
The Dignity Bus will be run by Community Care Alliance.
Homeless in RI: The Dignity Bus was on its way to help – until it wasn’t
Individuals living outdoors on private wooded property in Cranston have been moved along by a combined approach with social services, police, land owners, and public works. While there was one estimate that the numbers were between 16 and 60 people, Cranston Police have estimated the numbers at far less in Cranston.
“We didn’t conduct any raids,” said Col. Michael Winquist of the Cranston Police. Winquist said that they were asked to accompany staff of Paolino Properties to inform the encampers that they had to leave private property. A male and female officer went with the company staff to inform those on the property that they had to leave in 3 days. Paolino staff, not city staff, handed out a packet of resource information providing them with housing and support services contacts. “There were probably 3 little encampments with 4 to 5 people each, maybe 6 tents. We didn’t go in with guns drawn or anything like that – we went in with our clinical staff and a male and female officer,” Winquist noted. Starting this week the department will have another clinician on the force.
The encampments were littered with garbage, propane tanks, cooking grills, needles, etc. according to Winquist, who viewed the interactions between the homeless and officers on body cameras officers were wearing. He reviewed the footage in response to RINewsToday’s inquiry and after viewing an article detailing the events in a different way.
One of the reasons going to existing shelters is difficult for the people there, according to them, is that they are in couples, or have dogs or pets, or are actively involved with drugs and alcohol use and don’t want to end that and know they can’t go into shelters with supplies of either. “They tell us they prefer to be off-the-grid,” Winquist said, continuing, one person said to an officer, “my mother lives just down the street, I can go live with her”. Several of those living in the area complained about mosquitos and ticks as they were close to a body of water and it was getting more uncomfortable.
Winquist noted that as of Monday all the tents are gone and the private property has been cleaned up by the owner. This is an area between a charter school and the Texas Roadhouse and owned by Paolino Properties.
The RI Coalition to End Homelessness has increasingly doubled down on encampment “rights”, issuing statements that are exaggerated and in many cases false and misleading. In a statement about the Cranston encampment they called the interactions “raids”, and said about the Cranston encampments: “These raids not only violate the fundamental rights of individuals experiencing homelessness but also continue to perpetuate a cycle of marginalization and discrimination for Rhode Islanders who do not have a place to go,” said Caitlin Frumerie, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness. “Rather than resorting to raids and forced evictions, we ask local officials to lead thoughtfully and compassionately. We must prioritize long-term strategies that address the root causes of homelessness and provide sustainable support to those in need. Until we have enough housing for everyone, encampment raids are unfair, inhumane, and cruel.”
The statement continues: “We call upon city officials in Cranston and other municipalities to immediately halt these encampment raids. We ask that they, instead, engage in meaningful dialogue with service providers to develop and fund compassionate and effective solutions to support those experiencing homelessness. We must join together to create a society that works for all of us and is inclusive, equitable, and responsive to all its members’ needs, especially those most vulnerable.”
The Cranston encampments in question were on private property and no raid occurred.
Col. Winquist acknowledged that for many of the people living in these situations, “our hearts go out to them. It’s complicated and the solutions are complicated, but you cannot camp on private property”.
At 4pm TODAY, protesters have announced they plan to gather at the DaVinci Center and Charles Place senior housing. They are the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project, Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, Gather Together United as 1, the Rhode Island Poor People’s Campaign, Better Lives Rhode Island, Mathewson Church Housing Justice Committee, and Direct Action for Rights and Equality. They say they are “demanding” that Mayor Smiley “stop the intended raid and eviction of those camped there”.
“Mayor Smiley, we demand that you stop the raids, stop pushing people around from place to place, and start helping them better SURVIVE outside now, until humane shelter and real housing is available to them that meets their needs.””Mayor Smiley, we demand that you stop the raids, stop pushing people around from place to place, and start helping them better SURVIVE outside now, until humane shelter and real housing is available to them that meets their needs.”
Their demands are:
Mayor Smiley must:
1. Instruct the Providence police to hold harmless and not arrest, ticket, or harass those camped in Providence, given that his administration has done little to nothing to provide any alternatives to their tents.
2. Provide and service trash receptacles and Porta Potties if requested by those living in tent encampments in the city.
3. Immediately identify city owned (or acquire privately owned) buildings to provide at least 100 emergency shelter beds, preferably buildings that can eventually be converted to permanent supportive and/or deeply subsidized housing for extremely low-income households. The city must hire service provider(s) to operate the new shelter(s).
4. Identify sites for, purchase, and have shipped to Providence enough rapidly deployable shelters to provide beds for 100 individuals in at least two separate shelter villages. Provide electricity, bathrooms, showers, and meal sites for residents.”
Vincent Marzullo, past interim CEO of the DaVinci Center said, “this has had a chilling effect on the staff and clients of the DaVinci Center – somehow there needs to be safety, peace, and order to that location/facility/neighborhood thru a multi-jurisdictional, coordinated effort. It doesn’t currently exist.”
In talking with the homeless at the DaVinci Center encampment several had housing vouchers and places to go but didn’t want to, preferring to stay out in the open. The area is littered with garbage and drug paraphernalia. Open drug activity occurs between the Center and Charles Place, sometimes in the gazebo which was donated to the hi-rise by Rep. Mary Ellen Goodwin who died several months ago. HUD is involved in complaints over the safety of seniors and residents in the area. One resident who has gone public with her complaints is now being harassed and is “fearful for my life”, having received threats for her complaints.
Homeless in RI: UPDATE. Dignity moves forward in Woonsocket – not for Providence’s DaVinci Center
Healey admin. reveals it’s housing 1,245 “families” with 3,853 individuals in free hotels with free housing nightly as of June 29. Nightly room rates paid by the state are approximately $155+>
Thanks to Nancy and Staff for their excellent and up-to-date reporting! Thanks to Woonsocket for stepping up when the State wouldn’t. Twenty people will have a place to rest their heads. Bless the City for doing what is right.
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