A red brick wall.

Homeless in RI: State says “the system is broken” as Coalition responds to deadline for data

The temperature in Providence is 30; the windchill is 21 degrees.

Photo: B. Higgins for RINewsToday

“Let me be very clear. The system is broken. We have street workers who report back…we have street workers who don’t…” – Josh Saal, RI Secretary for Housing

With that, the saga of homelessness in Rhode Island continues.

Yesterday, Monday December 19th, at 4pm, was a deadline given by the state to the RI Coalition to End Homelessness to submit to the Governor a direction list for the 80+ homeless encampments that they know about throughout Rhode Island. They were also to submit the waitlist on the state’s Coordinated Entry System (CES) to the Secretary on Housing. The Coalition was also asked to be sure that streetworkers log in their interactions on the Homelesss Information Management System (HIMS).

RINewsToday attempted numerous times to get a response from the state whether or not that information was received. All requests went unanswered.

Coalition publishes editorial

In an editorial published yesterday by UpriseRI, and written by the Coalition, they say, “Over the past few weeks, the State has provided reporters and the public with inaccurate statements about the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness… Any statement that we are trying to keep people homeless or withholding data is absurd and diminishes the complexity of supporting the fair and equitable distribution of shelter resources within Rhode Island.

They also disclosed they had responded to Josh Saal’s request for information by the Monday deadline, noting…

Database info – “if you have any questions or concerns about the manner in which the Coalition gathers and utilizes data, you and your staff are welcome to explore applying for HMIS access privileges”.

Encampment locations – “the Coalition does not possess the exact location or geolocation coordinates of homeless encampments in Rhode Island…the Coalition does not have this information in its possession, custody, or control. We have provided approximate locations by region and redirected the State to street outreach providers who can best provide the requested information… Information on encampments is not a HUD required data element and is not something that is tracked in HMIS. Once again, please reach out to the various street outreach providers in the State for more precise location data.

CES Waiting List – a full deidentified export of the CES Shelter Queue was provided with real-time data on Dec. 15th (not on the 14th as requested).

The letter noted the Coalition’s past “asks” to the state:

1. Deploy $15 million dollars worth of resources to bring 380 shelter beds online and ensure adequate Housing Problem Solving resources.
2. Declare Homelessness in Rhode Island as a State of Emergency (as other communities have),
3. Reenact Interagency Council on Homelessness, tasked with developing a State Plan to Address Homelessness

The letter ended with a call to work on plans for next year “so we do not end up in this same
place again next year.”

Read the Coalition to End Homelessness full letter to the Secretary on Housing, here:



Interview with Housing Czar

In an interview on NBC 10 with reporter Gabrielle Caracciolo, Saal said approximately 300 to 500 people remain on the streets, varying from week to week and with the weather. When asked by Caracciolo if there were a bed for every person on this one night who chose to sleep in one (as promised before Thanksgiving), Saal said he couldn’t say, because every night is different, but they are continuing to “provide that for everyone, but not just the bed, a warm place to make sure that [their] life safety issues are being addressed”.

Emphasizing that shelter beds are short-term solutions, Saal continued, “We do need to make some systemic changes because the system is broken…that’s not going to happen overnight, but my department and this administration is 100% committed to ending homelessness and not just managing it.”

This is a developing story.

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  1. Elaine Kehoe on December 20, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    Why doesn’t the state look at the Cranston Street Armory as part of the solution? It’s being used temporarily now as a “warming center,” but I just read that there are plans to “develop” it for office space and recreation areas. Do we need office space more than we need homes for people? The state has $600 million in surplus funds. The state should look into purchasing the Armory and other abandoned buildings and put that surplus into renovating them into livable housing for homeless people. The answer is right in front of us and the state is not seeing it. This is a crisis that must be addressed and abated immediately. We cannot continue to let our citizens live outside, on streets and in tents, especially in cold weather.