A picture of a man and a woman in front of a building.

Miles apart on Homeless issue. Protest – and Celebration of Housing – both TODAY, 10am

As a “celebration” is taking place at 10am at Crossroads, over the $5 million more dollars invested into the homeless cause, a protest will be starting just a short distance away to demand more be done and a state of emergency declared on the homeless issue.

Governor McKee will give remarks at Crossroads Rhode Island’s Celebration of Housing, which will highlight record investments in housing. Rhode Island’s congregational delegation is set to participate.

At the same time, at Burnside Park at 10 am community members will speak out against the conditions they say they are currently facing and call on Gov. Dan McKee and Josh Saal, the Rhode Island Secretary of Housing to “take homelessness seriously” – and with a sense of urgency they say is missing as the weather turns cold.

There will be a speaking program at Burnside Park in downtown Providence and then a march to the RI State House. The group will stop also at the Superman building, Providence City Hall, and Rhode Island Housing before ending at the RI State House.

The group, We Need Housing, put out the following information about the numbers are homeless in Rhode Island:

“As of September 17, there are over 350 Rhode Islanders living outside—this is a massive undercount, and a number that will only continue to grow. There are estimated to be over 80 homeless encampments in our state. This is over five times as many people living without shelter than at any point before the pandemic, and growing at a quicker rate. Last week alone, 59 single adults and 22 households (with children) were entered into the homeless database for the first time.

Six months ago, we met and agreed with the governor that this crisis needed to be addressed immediately. Rhode Island has received unprecedented amounts of Rapid Rehousing resources through Covid-19 funding, but we haven’t been able to use them. Currently, 193 people experiencing homelessness have rental subsidy vouchers but have not found landlords willing to accept them. Since January 2021, 71 households have had to return their expired vouchers due to a lack of available housing units.”

The group says that if Rhode Island declares a state of emergency it could bypass bureaucratic barriers and bypass zoning, statutes and regulations to allow the use of city-owned and privately-owned property to open and maintain shelters.

They are looking for $12.2 million for 380 shelter beds and say that service providers have identified 247 beds at 7 possible shelter sites, but there is no funding or approval for them, and that the state needs to quickly move to identify 133 other beds immediately needed “at a minimum”. The group saysm “We need at least $2.8 million in flexible funding to help 420 households be housed, and thereby prevent them from entering the homeless service system.”

RINewsToday has begun a series of stories about the unique needs of the homeless with disabilities. Read the first two stories, here: