A woman smiling in front of a painting.

In the Arena – with Eileen Hayes, Amos House & Joe Paolino, Jr.

Each week Joe Paolino, Jr. interviews leaders and office holders who provide insight and information on issues of relevance to Rhode Islanders. This week he talks with the president and CEO of Amos House, a Rhode Island social service agency, Eileen Hayes.

They talk about the homeless situation and food insecurity in the state, and particularly in Providence. Hayes says there is a 70% increase in homelessness. With 475 people on the street without a shelter bed. “We’ve never had those numbers,” Hayes said.

Hayes acknowledges that “they are looking for a location to put up temporary pallet shelter homes”. These would be for the chronically mentally ill or those with substance abuse.

Paolino mentioned use of the old Tockwotten Home, and other abandoned buildings that are empty, as well as convent and old church buildings to transition into studio and 1 bedroom units. Millions were spent operating hotel rooms.


  1. Beverly Dwyer on November 27, 2022 at 8:32 pm

    Add to these alarming statistics the growth of mental illness & substance abuse, families are hurting. RI is 8th in nation with overdose deaths. There are so many interconnected issues. So many at risk.

    • Barbara on January 16, 2023 at 12:06 am

      You hit that one on the head 100%, Beverly. In my opinion, I feel RI has tried to clump many issues and people into one category and name it a homeless or housing issue.

      Though it is absolutely true that you have housing issues in RI, that does not account for many that are put in the category of being homeless. I am no expert like those from Amos House, but even an outsider can understand the difference between a person that is homeless and an addict, alcoholic, or or has limited mental ability or disabilities, from someone who is homeless from finances.

      The crisis is much sadder and broader than stating someone is homeless, without giving a hint of the reason behind the lack of safe housing. Funding needs to be given for all, but in separate packages, not broad funding.
      Was the person displaced for loss of income? Death of spouse or provider? Physically disabled? Chronic illness? Addiction? Abuse? They can’t and shouldn’t be linked together and put in a file marked “Homeless”. Homeless shelters or housing assistance needs to be made in individual areas of need.

      The Homeless file only addresses one part of the problem. Housing and lack of it. I personally know at least one person, if not many, who fall into any of the above categories. I myself, close to being in two of them at times in my life. But what about the deep, dark issues that no one can seem to address properly. Mental health care, long term addiction programs that focus on quality results, not repeat offenders. Proper places that can house the proper people to the proper needs. Many homeless need special care and giving a warm bed and clothes and a meal, maybe a shower, will not help these issues, just put a band-aid on it.

      Let’s address individualized treatment according to the need, not the file it comes from. Those who truly try to help the homeless, come across crushing obstacles when everyone falls under the category of homeless.
      Homeless financially? Let’s provide housing and assistance to those who lost all income from employment, not injury. I’ll address that in a minute lol. Have a safe place of temporary housing. Staff it with financial planners, job placement assistance, child care and someone who knows something about Home Economics to teach budgeting, shopping. Teach how to run a household. Some people have no idea how to.

      Now comes those out on the streets unrelated to loss of income from job or the bread winner. Let’s start with injuries. If you are homeless with a physical reason, you aren’t really getting any help if you end up in a facility that is also housing people with addictions and/or mental health issues. There needs to be a facility to house physical handicaps. Private living quarters. Staff health care workers, physical therapists, rooms with special adaptive equipment, a physical fitness area, nutritionist.

      Now lets help those who have addictions, be it drugs or alcohol. Both are as deadly as each other. We could start with harsher penalties for drug dealers, but that is another issue. Special housing needs to be developed to address helping addiction end. Housing should consist of private living quarters. Staff with experts on helping specific addictions, counseling, activities directors, job building skills to boost confidence and help into the workforce, allow you to work and live in the housing after you complete the program, for a specified period of time at a low rate to cover basic needs, add a gym or physical activity room.

      Now here is a big one. Mental health issues. We all know this has been a very weak area in many states. No health insurance? Not good. Overcrowded facilities being under staffed and overworked. We need better focus on individual care here as well. Separate living quarters for those who can care for themselves. Let’s fund separate housing for those with mental issues who are nonviolent, from those who are violent but not criminals. Focus on care both mentally and physically. Give less patients to more health care providers. Stop overcrowding. Proper doctors and health care staff, nutrition and physical health is needed here too.

      As I sit here and type this, my mind wishes it were a reality to come. But in truth, in this country, this is just a fairy tale. We all know what needs to be done. We just can’t find the people to fund it all who don’t have an agenda. One hundred people could be on a committee, but all it takes is a few to turn it into something it isn’t. Then funding is taken away or runs out, but other areas boom with funding.

      So I guess we have a Humane Issue, not just a homeless issue. Maybe they should all be put in that file. We can label that one “Humanity”.