A man holding up a cardboard box with a house drawn on it.

Homelessness on agenda: Cranston votes ‘just say no’ – Gov. debate says state has no plan

It was a simultaneous moment as the gubernatorial debate between Mayor McKee and candidate Ashley Kalus took place while the Cranston City Council sub-committee was discussing the homeless crisis on the cusp of winter.

What was clear is that the issues impact more people this year, but the issues are not new. Each winter, failure to plan leaves November a critical time to ask, “what are we going to do”? Last winter a tent encampment took place on the grounds of the RI State House. In other years similar tent villages have popped up, drawing awareness to the situation of those unhoused for the winter – and year round.

The issue of “tiny homes” or Pallet Shelters has come to the city of Cranston with preliminary meetings happening about locating a good number of the shelter sheds on the grounds of the Pastore Complex. The complex is state property but is served by the City of Cranston with municipal services of fire, police and rescue.

The numbers of shelter sheds have been mentioned as “a few” to as many as 100. With unclear details coming from the Housing program at the state, speculation has only made the discussion about their location more intense.

This week, homeless advocates set up the type of “tiny house” in consideration on the grounds of the RI State House. While the house is now gone, homeless tents remain along the perimeter of the courtyard.

In a report this week, RINewsToday revealed that there are other options to the Pallet Shelters available:

In Westerly, the WARM Center is using small numbers of hotel vouchers per facility to house their emergency clients, and plans to continue with that model.

In Pawtucket, an entire warehouse building on a main road, purchased by the City of Pawtucket has been offered to the state for this winter’s emergency need – yet the city says they have not heard back from the state. That facility could house 100% of those in need who want to go to the facility and would be on a bus line with easy access to food, etc.

Also in Pawtucket, Amos House will begin adapting rooms at the now empty Pawtucket Memorial Hospital for use – the building has to be sealed and physically prepared.

Cranston’s Special Safety, Services & Licenses Committee spent hours last night discussing a Resolution to call upon the Governor to withdraw consideration of the Pastore Center due to its strain on services, safety concerns, and other issues. Several people testified, almost equally, both in person and on ZOOM.

This resolution passed 4 to 2 and will go to the full Council.

The full meeting can be viewed, here:


Gubernatorial Debate

The debate between Gov. McKee and candidate Ashley Kalus was happening at the same time Providence. The topic of the current homeless crisis came up, with accusations that the state, once again, failed to have a plan, knowing that November and cold weather was coming.

The Governor said “we were given a goal of 350 new units by Thanksgiving – we already have met 250 of those, so we have 100 to go, and we’ll make that goal.

(Getting accurate numbers has been difficult as the state will not provide how many are homeless, and how many units already exist – units needed have varied from 350 to over 400 to 550 to 1,000).

Mayor Hopkins in Cranston has maintained that it is the state’s plan to wait until after the election and then locate those units, in the form of Pallet Shelters, at the Pastore Center.

Other programs fail to disclose

RINewsToday asked all 6 programs who are receiving new funding for homeless programs just what they will do with that funding.

  • Amos House Family Shelter (Pawtucket): $1,338,655 – using Pawtucket Memorial Hospital
  • Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center (Central Falls): $966,870 – NO RESPONSE
  • Catholic Social Services of Rhode Island (Providence): $20,000 – NO RESPONSE
  • Sojourner House (Providence): $180,899 – NO RESPONSE
  • Thrive Behavior Health (West Warwick): $827,103 – NO RESPONSE
  • Westerly Area Rest Meals (WARM) Center (Westerly): $220,103 – using hotel rooms

The Pawtucket warehouse is in addition to these programs. A source identified this as a failed location for Pallet Shelters last year, when the fire department disapproved locating them inside the warehouse due to fire and safety concerns. The warehouse is owned by Pawtucket Housing and is empty.

RINewsToday stories on the homelessness issue:

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