Portugal homeless program

Homeless in RI: Thoughts of winter. Lost leaders, SCOTUS, budget, data, pallets, showers, Portugal

Photo: Porto, Portugal city websiteHospital transitioned to homeless shelter w/wraparound services

As we recognize July 4th, homeless advocates are already looking to the first cold days of 2024’s fall and winter season. Fall is September 22nd, 76 days from today. Winter begins on December 21st, 166 days from today.

Two losses in the homeless, and affordable housing circle for Rhode Island

stefan pryor

The first loss is the resignation of Stefan Pryor, secretary of RI Housing. Pryor announced he will leave his position in July (term expires in 2025), with reports that he will be working with a non-government position in the financial, investment field. Pryor, highly regarded for his ability to bring top-down, big-picture thinking to problems as complex as post-World Trade Center rebuilding – to running CommerceRI for then Governor Raimondo during COVID – to taking on the homeless crisis in Rhode Island. He will be remembered for significant accomplishments, mostly with CommerceRI, and also for leading such out-of-the-box efforts as Pallet Shelters, surely the bane of his last assignment here in Rhode Island, as the shelters go into their 3rd month stymied in Rhode Island red tape of licensing, zoning and infrastructure issues. See RINewsToday story, here:

Photo: Jennifer Hawkins, ONB website

Within rapid succession was the announcement that Jennifer Hawkins, CEO of One Neighborhood Builders was also leaving at the end of September, after a decade of leadership and accomplishments. Hawkins said, “I’m eager to take time off to reflect on my 25 years of experience within the housing and community development fields across Rhode Island, Boston, and New York, and consider how my next professional endeavor can best contribute to larger systems change and generate enduring housing justice.” Focusing on large scale developments such as Broad Street in Central Falls, 3 new buildings on Atwells Avenue, and East Providence developments, Hawkins deep understanding of the business side of affordable housing will be a significant loss to the Rhode Island problem of permanent housing.


RI State Budget

As the RI Coalition to End Homelessness took to holding rallies – at the RI State House – and at the steps of Providence City Hall, some good news came out on restored funding for the homeless issue. Asking to have $30M restored that would have been lost, putting over 1,000 shelter beds at risk, Gov. McKee said he would allocate $31M to the cause.

From the Rhode Island Current: 1,000 shelter beds at risk if funding lostextended funds end just before cold weather begins

The governor’s budget proposal comes as the state’s homeless response system faces a $22 million budget shortfall in the next fiscal year after pandemic-era federal aid runs out. Without funding, the coalition estimates 1,000 shelter beds across the state would close.

The coalition ahead of Tuesday’s rally also warned of 346 winter shelter beds set to expire at the end of this month. Housing Department spokesperson Patti Doyle acknowledged some shelter contracts are set to expire at the end of April, but would only result in the closure of 47 shelter beds. “We expect these projects will apply to reopen for next winter,” she said.

Funding for additional seasonal beds at Providence’s Emmanuel House is being extended through September, Doyle added. The state also extended the lease for a 30-bed shelter in Washington County through the end of July.

Department officials also plan to extend contracts for a 120-bed Open Doors program in Warwick and the 30-bed Tri-county Community Action’s Family Shelter in Burrillville through September, Doyle said.

“As the governor has indicated, it is important to identify new recurring funding sources that can help address our housing and homelessness challenges over multiple years,” Doyle said.

Though advocates and shelter providers celebrated the governor’s proposed budget amendment, many told the crowd the fight to ensure funding is far from over.

As we go to press we are waiting for an update from RI Housing

The Gap

Will there be a gap that puts people out of shelters, until funding application time begins again – with weeks if not months delay in setting programs back up? Does that put people back in encampments? What is the state’s plan for emergency shelters, replacing a facility such as the Cranston Street Armory?



Problems brewing in Woonsocket. ARPA funds are gone. Dignity Bus success does not seem to have a sustainable line of funding. 1 year was to be given by the Rhode Island Foundation and Rhode Island Housing, but that has come up short, according to City Councilor Valerie Rodriguez. The Rhode Island Foundation was to provide 6 mos funding with RI Housing providing the last 6 mos for a full year. Additionally, the local hotel in North Smithfield may be closed – or closing, soon as funding runs out in temporary use of motels and hotels.

A question was posed to RI Housing about the motel use and when they run out. Response: “funding ending in September for hotels being used as shelters, funding from the Consolidated Homelessness Fund (CHF) that supports shelters and other homelessness related services runs on a federal fiscal year, which is October 1-September 30. The renewal status of all projects will be determined through the annual review process.” Looks like a gap in services is heading for Woonsocket, which is reporting more homeless on the streets than expected for this time of year.

Woonsocket is in the planning stages of putting together an all-out campaign as options are fewer going into the fall and winter. CCA had original funding to add many more staff, and now layoffs took place, leaving less resources to the area at a critical time.

We reached out to CCA and Benedict Lessing responded: “There have been no staffing cuts. As we and RI Foundation have commented on in the past, the Foundation agreed only to fund 6 months of operations. We applied for ongoing funding through the State Department of Housing but have received no information as to continuing funding for operations. As such, the Dignity Bus is currently not in operation. Those staff assigned to the bus have been transferred to other shelter operations.”



There are several small encampments in the wooded area a block from Memorial Hospital near the pier off School Street – there have also been encampments seen on the hospital property which is fenced off with a chainlink fence. No plans are currently underway for the restoration of Memorial Hospital as any entity – and the city says the facility is still in the hands of the private owner/developer.


SCOTUS upholds bans against homeless encampments

In a plethora of decisions as the term of the Supreme Court of the United States wound down for the summer, a ruling came through that upholds cities, towns, and states’ bans on homeless people from sleeping outdoors, saying local governments are allowed to enforce those laws if they have them in place. SCOTUS sided with a local ordinance in Oregon. The case originated in Grants Pass, Oregon that argues its ordinance is a solution to the city’s homelessness crisis, which includes fines and potential jail time for repeat offenders who camp or sleep outdoors.

In a 6-3 decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the opinion that the enforcement of those local laws that regulate camping on public property does not constitute the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it,” he wrote. “The Constitution’s Eighth Amendment serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American people and in their place dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy.”

On the local front, new data from the Providence Fire Department notes that 30 of the 90 calls for overdoses were self-identified as “homeless”.


Point-in-Time Study

This year’s Point-in-Time study, published this year, reports 2,442 people unhoused in Rhode Island – individuals who are homeless, living in cars, campgrounds and shelters, a 35 percent increase over last year.

The 5-year trends of the study, which is conducted as an all-out effort to “count the homeless” on one 24-hour period – throughout the US – done by volunteers and staff of the agency that manages homeless services – the RI Coalition to End Homelessness shows disturbing 5-year trends. The unique need is in “Emergency” shelter.

Summary of data for Point-in-Time taken in January of 2024:

To access the full report:

Comparative numbers to 2023 Point-in-Time study:


The Shower to Empower mobile unit is available on Mondays from 9 to 11am on Central Street in Providence, on Tuesdays from 9 to 11am on Broad Street in Pawtucket, on Wednesdays, from 9 to noon, at Thundermist Health Center, 450 Clinton St in Woonsocket and on Fridays from 9am to 11am on Dexter Street (Cranston St. Armory) in Providence.

Services offered include showers, haircuts, case management and medical services.

Shower to Empower is a one-of-a-kind mobile service, offering basic needs such as complimentary showers and haircuts. They also offer on-site case management, and some medical services to those experiencing homelessness.

With 1,180 individuals experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island on any given night, Shower to Empower serves some of the hardest to reach populations that are living on the streets of Providence, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket. They work in partnership with Alpert Medical School of Brown University, the Rhode Island College School of Social Work, and the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing to incorporate students into Shower to Empower, and the service is run out of House of Hope. For more information:


Boston, MA, Mass & Cass – and Logan Airport

Migrant and homeless families will no longer be allowed to sleep overnight at Logan Airport, Gov. Healey announced, with a deadline of Tuesday, July 9th to be fully vacated. While some have left, over 30 were still there on July 4th, saying they had “nowhere else to go”, per a Boston Globe report.

There are numerous reports of hotel housing being eliminated as year-end funding ends – and limits being put on emergency hotel/motel lodgings for migrants – that can be extended once or twice, but putting a deadline on that housing option.

Photo: Leon Rivera – “X” – @BosLeonRivera

Mass & Cass – while not the site of more than a few tents, people with nowhere to go, and no permanent solutions, are accumulating all day and night on Mass & Cass – again.


Pallet Shelters – Mayor Smiley says the village should open by Labor Day. The Governor has said it will be open before the first cold day of the season. Holdups appear to be in licensing, permitting, zoning and involving fire code issues, as well as some infrastructure needs.



The MLK Center says it is feeding 30% more people so far this year. An average meal count is 1.1 million meals in a calendar year to nearly 6,000 people in Newport County. 30% of the total served are seniors “trying to age in place”, according to a WhatsUpNewp news article. The Center believes most of Newport area’s homeless have been staying at the “warming center” or in their cars, in the warmer months.


Martha’s Vineyard – 20 people are living in encampments in the island’s State Forest – 30 are living in off-season shelter, bouncing from house to house, sleeping in their cars, or those who are forced to cram into single-family homes, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Current.


Maine – Biddeford moves to make encampments illegal

In Biddeford, Maine, a new temporary shelter, Seeds of Hope, will open to provide services while the city works to provide alternative housing to encampments which are now illegal in the city – reports say they were “carefully closed”. This is part of an “alternate plan” for the homeless, soon to be announced.



Connecticut is proposing a “mansion tax” on houses with values of over $1 Million – it would assess $1 per $1000 of value – with a goal of generating as much as $180 Million, which would go toward homelessness. It is not expected the proposal will be passed.


Portugal’s use of hospital buildings, Porto, Portugal (photo, top)

The Joaquim Urban Temporary Reception Center (ATJU) for homeless people is located in the Álvaro Pimenta Pavilion (formerly Joaquim Urbano Hospital) and operates uninterrupted throughout the year, 24 hours a day. It is a social response of a specific or provisional character for individuals who, either because of their life options, personal destructuring, or by processes of degradation of their health status (drug addiction, alcoholism, psychiatric or infectious disease) are in need of emerging housing.

A low-respect structure, with flexible operating standards with a view to establishing individualized therapeutic processes that include a medical-sanitary approach and an occupational socio-support, carried out by a multidisciplinary team. It provides the following services: psychosocial support; personal hygiene and clothing; cafeteria (5 meals daily: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and supper); laundry; nursing; psychopedagogical and recreational activities.

Each municipality also has a slightly different strategy, because the reality is different. We don’t have the same reality as Lisbon and we don’t have the same reality as Beja. They are completely different realities,” Part of the facilities of the former Joaquim Urbano Hospital are ceded to the Porto City Council, on a loan basis, by the Santo António University Hospital Centre for the development of a Temporary Reception Centre for 40 homeless people, a Social Emergency Centre for 30 people, a centralised kitchen for the network of municipal solidarity restaurants, workshops and an entertainment and integration team, among other services.

Portugal is known throughout Europe as having, so far, the most open door policy to immigration. “Immigrants are quickly absorbed into the legal economy, paying taxes and social charges straight away,” according to Economic Times, adding that “migrant farm workers have brought life back to an area badly hit by the flight from the land.

This is one in a continuing series – and is a developing story.

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  1. Ben Lessing on July 9, 2024 at 4:02 pm

    Relative to the Dignity Bus in Woonsocket, the RI Foundation’s commitment to funding the project never exceeded more than 6 months. Continuation funding was requested of the Dept. of Housing through its RFP process. There was no response. There have been no layoffs of staff. Those personnel previously assigned to Dignity Bus operations were reassigned to other shelter operations. Ben Lessing, CEO, Community Care Alliance

    • Nancy Thomas on July 9, 2024 at 4:29 pm

      TY, Ben, for the clarification – we will be providing a full update in a day or so

  2. pwsbuilder on July 9, 2024 at 6:55 am

    test comment

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