A large number of tents in a parking lot.

Pop-up winter homeless village in the works – Cranston bolts at being state’s go-to location

Photo: Village in Portland

UPDATE: 9am – Center of page in red

Several weeks ago RINewsToday featured a story about a subset of homeless individuals in Burnside Park in downtown Providence. The group is particularly difficult to place due to their physical needs. The agencies who serve the homeless or unhoused have unique “handicapped” housing units that become available from time to time that are single housing, not congregate housing, or with bunk bed type sleeping. At this time there are no available specialty units. They don’t become available that often we’ve been told.

We learned about new pop-up housing that is single or double occupancy. They are often called Pallet housing and look much like a shed with sleeping, storage and utility hook-ups, but with no bathrooms. One of the calls we made was to intake staff at the various homeless service agencies who told us that 20 pallets were being stored in a warehouse. When asked why they were in storage when people were on the street who could use them now, we were told that the state won’t release the money, and they have it. When we asked how long would it take for the units to be set up and operational once the funding is released we were told 4 or 5 days.

We attempted to confirm this information and no agency would acknowledge having the units. House of Hope had displayed one in Pawtucket some time back, as a demonstration, noting that they had 100 other units. They said they were the only agency “working on pallet housing”.

We contacted the manufacturer of the housing units – Pallet Shelter in the state of Washington. We inquired about how many units were sold to Rhode Island and they responded by saying “We are not at liberty to discuss private customers.  You’ll need to speak with Laura Jaworski, MSW, Executive Director, House of Hope CDC.”

We wrote back asking if they had sold any units to any other provider in Rhode Island and were told no, they had not.

The units are particularly suitable for the hard to place homeless – and those who are resistant to go into congregate – group – settings out of fear of personal or property safety.

Pallet describes their housing as “Pallet shelters provide the dignity of personal space in a healing community environment. Assembled in under one hour, our durable, comfortable, and private sleeping cabins offer a proven stepping stone to permanent housing.”

18 units are operating in the state of Massachusetts, having been placed on the grounds of a closing hospital. It’s believed that no other units are in New England. The 18 units in Massachusetts are being used to house, primarily, the homeless known as the Mass & Cass group. (Massachusetts and Cass Avenue).

With the millions being released for the homeless, it would seem reasonable that some money would be set aside for the Pallet homes. Recently Josh Saal, the RI Housing “Czar” confirmed to RINewsToday that there were no plans and there would be no plans to designate the Warwick NYLO Hotel again this winter for use as a homeless shelter hotel.

In a new statement today from Sect. Saal –

“To be clear: There are no current plans to install Pallet Shelter units at the Pastore Complex in Cranston. Our office is working collaboratively with municipal leaders and non-profits across our state to explore innovation solutions to both provide immediate shelter for unhoused Rhode Islanders, and to help these individuals and families access services and supports that put them on a path toward permanent housing. 

Utilizing Pallet Shelters – which offer safe, non-congregate, 24-hour shelter to families in need and can be rapidly deployed at times in which the State is experiencing a surge in homelessness and rapidly dismantled when the need is lower –  is an innovative and cost-efficient option we are currently evaluating.

The Pastore Complex is one of several potentially suitable sites we have visited to explore the feasibility of utilizing Pallet Shelters. All discussions with municipal officials in Cranston and elsewhere have been preliminary, and no decisions have been made.


New statistics show that the rise in the homeless rate tends to be in emergency housing, as depicted in the report released this September, depicted here by the blue line.

The level of detailed information provided to us by the homeless intake worker originally about the 20 pallets seemed reasonable until we learned that the numbers may be as high as 500 pallets.

Cranston leader responds about use of state facilities for village

On Monday we received a press release from Cranston Councilman Matthew R. Reilly (R-Ward 6), along with a letter he has sent to Governor McKee about the location of a pallet village.

Reilly called upon Governor Daniel McKee to drop his proposal to build villages of pallet housing for the homeless at the Pastore Complex in Cranston. The councilman represents the neighborhoods which surround the Pastore Government Complex including Garden City, Garden Hills, Glen Hills, Oak Hill, Mayfield, and Dean Estates.

“While I acknowledge and support efforts to provide a continuum of social services to the homeless population of our state, the City of Cranston, and Ward 6 specifically, can longer be the go-to location to solve all of the State’s issues. We already host the State’s largest men’s shelter as well as more state facilities than any other city, with the exception of Providence. We simply can no longer bear any more of the State’s burden logistically, financially, or socially.”

Reilly continued, “There are many other municipalities in the State of Rhode Island that are equally equipped to assist the State with this program. The needs and burdens of the State must be shared equitably throughout the State, not just jammed into the Pastore Center in Cranston. We will no longer sit quietly while the State intensifies its use of the Pastore Center to the detriment of the residents of Ward 6, while at the same time drastically reducing the much-needed funding to the City of Cranston.”

Reilly went on to further explain that Ward 6 already hosts Harrington Hall, the largest men’s shelter in the State. This shelter houses a high volume of registered sex offenders and other felons who congregate throughout the local neighborhoods each day. The addition of the proposed “homeless village” would significantly increase the amount of registered sex offenders and homeless to an area that is already dangerously saturated.

Reilly continued, “Enough is enough, Another city can step up for once. For too many years, the City of Cranston has been taken advantage of by the State as it continues to flood more and more state facilities and services into the Pastore Complex while drastically reducing funding to the City. Additionally, Cranston has to utilize additional extensive public safety resources of fire and police needed to respond to the various facilities and buildings at the Pastore Center. This unfair obligation, with minimal state financial assistance, is a drain on our budget and takes critical public safety personnel away from servicing the rest of our city’s needs”.

Reilly concluded by urging his neighbors to call the Office of the Governor and voice their concerns for this proposal

Just weeks ago there was an arrest at the Cranston Public Library of a man who was on the computer and engaged in a lewd act in public. The library has long been a haven for homeless women and men in the Cranston area for getting in out of the elements and using the public computers and resources. A Cranston police officer experienced with child molesters keeps tabs on the comings and goings in the library, which also houses a fairly new refurbished children’s section immediately to the left of the main entrance.

Reilly’s letter to the Governor:

Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins responds

RINewsToday reached out to Mayor Hopkins for a comment about the choice of Cranston for a location, and he responded: “I oppose it. The Governor knows that we have enough issues with Harrington Hall. Homeless people need help for the winter but we have done our fair share for many years.

UPDATE: Listen to Mayor Hopkins interviewed by Mayor Hopkins – he indicates the Governor’s office has come to his office to tell him about the village going to Pastore Complex –

To register comments about this plan, call the Governor’s office of constituency affairs: 222-2080.

House of Hope

After the Reilly press release was received with the letter to the Governor, we asked Jaworski of House of Hope again if she had anything to add now that information is out. Her response: “Thank you for sharing this information. However, I do not have an update to provide to you.”

Other location ideas were suggested by Councilman Reilly: “My first suggestion is Quonset as an alternate site. It provides similar logistical resources being close to highways and bus routes. However, it is an even better location as there are job opportunities there. Another option would be at the Zambarano Hospital site in Burrillville or the property on the old Ladd School site in Exeter. Both are state owned.”

Sample pallet village layouts:

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  1. Lesley on October 11, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    The councilman is correct. Cranston has been the go-to for the State for too long. The State might as well move the State House here. It pays ”in lieu of taxes”, not a ”fair share”. When it comes to the State, it was amazing to see how quickly the Attorney General’s building went up!!!
    Is this a done deal? The land is already cleared while it sat for years with the old, dilapidated buildings, an eyesore on Pontiac Ave.

  2. Kristine Rivera on October 11, 2022 at 1:57 pm

    Got to start somewhere. Hopefully it will give some me homeless the motivation to take the counseling and treatment.