A gazebo in front of an apartment building that provides shelter for the homeless in Rhode Island.

Homeless in RI: UPDATE. Dignity moves forward in Woonsocket – not for Providence’s DaVinci Center

The Dignity Bus

First – the good news – and yes, the Woonsocket City Council voted unanimously to bring the Dignity Bus to Woonsocket to serve residents of their city when step one was approved – the funding package – at their meeting last night.

Details of issuing contracts, insurance, permitting, etc. will now intensify and with Counselor Gonzalez and Mayor Baldelli behind it, the Dignity Bus could be in the community by the end of June. Staff members will then by trained by The Source to run the bus, technically, and programmatic advice.

If we gave awards out we’d consider those in Woonsocket who “just said no”, we’re not going to forget The Dignity Bus and pieced it together for a big victory for all politics – and best programs – are local. In times where city councils are often fraught with infighting, to see such unity among councilors, the mayor, the nonprofit, and other agencies to make this happen is laud-worthy.

The city noted that they had spent $150,000 on 2 months of housing at hotels, and this investment, about equal to that amount, will serve the community for years, not a few months. Key to this is the interaction that will happen with the program staff. A manager will be on the bus at all times, in their own living quarters.

It was also announced at the Council meeting that the RI Dept. of Housing has committed to provide operating funds beyond the 6 months that the RI Foundation will provide, or whenever that ends.

Housing Network of RI Awards Night

An awards night was held at the G Rooftop in Providence. Awards were presented to UpRiseRI and The Boston Globe for coverage of the homelessness and housing issues in Rhode Island.


The DaVinci Center

We covered the DaVinci Center’s plight with the homeless encampment in their backyard and drug issues becoming more prevalent. Then we heard about the gazebo.

This gazebo was donated to the people of Charles Place by Mary Ellen Goodwin, the representative from the area – it was her gift to the people. Goodwin passed away a month or so ago. At this time drug deals have been observed happening and crack cocaine being used in the gazebo. No seniors have used the gazebo in a long time.

Vin Marzullo, interim Executive Director has been reaching out – to anyone – and everyone – for help. From local police to the Governor, to HUD officials, to legislators, from local to state – and to national.

His story has been told to us – a break-in, people living in the woods feet from a river, only accessible with a plant, and next to a highway – a fire or two – drug activity – people streaming in and out of Charles Place – and seniors and disabled of this Section 8 housing high rise frightened to leave their apartments. Marzullo had big plans to expand the services to the community when he took over – but all that is stopped in its tracks while this situation plays out. He is a formidable person in the advocacy arena in Rhode Island, but his voice also gets soft and quiet – and he acknowledges he is frightened about what is happening at the area – much more than 20 homeless individuals. His compassion is palpable both for his seniors, the residents, and the homeless. And his energy to tell the story is boundless.

Today he will be a guest on WPRO’s Gene Valicenti show at 8:15am as he reaches out to the community who are probably unaware of what is happening right down the street from the RI State House.

See our story from yesterday:

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