A group of people standing in front of a building.

Tiny house joins tents for homeless at State House again. Where are those 274 new beds?

Housing advocates were back at the RI State House where rows of tents have appeared again this year, set up along both edges of the Smith Street courtyard entrance. The group has a new feature. A Pallet Shelter, or “tiny house”, which was in the process of being set up yesterday.

The housing advocacy group responsible for setting it up is hoping to convince powers that be that these shelters can be used for the over 400 Rhode Islanders who are homeless at this time. Eric Hirsch, spokesperson with the group, and a professor at Providence College said, “who thinks it is OK for homeless people to live in tents in the winter? Nobody. The Governor says there are barriers. We understand that. Overcome them. You’re the Governor.”

McKee said in a statement today that through federal funds they are working on “standing up 274 more beds”. The beds he is referring to were announced on September 30th. The facilities, all run by nonprofit agencies, and not the state, include: Amos House Family Shelter (Pawtucket), Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center (Central Falls), Catholic Social Services of Rhode Island (Providence), Sojourner House (Providence), Thrive Behavior Health (West Warwick), and Westerly Area Rest Meals (WARM) Center.

A check on the number of homeless vacancies showed “no vacancies” in the Rhode Island system as a whole. All involved, including the Governor, said there are no plans to use hotel rooms this year – or tiny homes such as the Pallet Shelters. Where the “274 more beds” are located is not clear. When they will be operational is not known.

The Pastore Center proposal in Cranston

Last month, plans to put a “tiny house” village up on the state’s property at the Pastore Center in Cranston were circulating. The center is state property but is serviced by the Cranston community for municipal services such as police, fire and rescue. A Cranston city councilman brought the issue out, which spurred a response by the mayor of Cranston opposing the idea. The Governor and the RI Housing director denied that there were any plans for that this year. In past years the group, at the time headed by House of Hope, has been denied acceptance by Pawtucket, and 2 Providence locations. Other communities have said they are not interested in a tiny village coming to their cities.

The Cranston City Council passed a resolution to go to Governor McKee asking him to commit publicly to not locating a “tiny village” or more homeless shelters on the Cranston property.

RI Housing Czar sends lengthy letter to Cranston

Josh Saal, appointed as RI Housing Czar, responded to the resolution sent to the Governor – see below – a key point Saal made was, “While there are currently no plans to add shelter beds in Cranston, either through rapidly deployable structures or otherwise, we will continue to have exploratory discussions on how to address homelessness and housing in Cranston through innovative programs.

Cranston Mayor Hopkins comments

Mayor Ken Hopkins has said that he does not want to see the pallet shelters go in at the Pastore Center in Cranston because Cranston already has Harrington Hall, a homeless shelter for over 150 men, many of whom are registered sex offenders and child molesters. He also has said that he believes the Governor may wait for the election to be over and then locate the shelters there anyway.

Reached on Monday, Hopkins told RINewsToday: “I have been in contact with the Governor’s office. I reiterated my position opposing any pallet housing in Cranston. We do enough with police and fire and the homeless shelter on the grounds of Harrington Hall. The blight of buildings on Pontiac Ave is also a concern. The Governor knows my position.”

At the RI State House

By noon the Pallet Shelter – we believe the same unit owned by House of Hope which is making the rounds in RI for demonstration purposes – had been erected with signage on the outside and full setup, including a made bed, on the inside. While the shelters can comfortably accommodate one person, it should be noted that their cost is approximately $8,500 each and this does not include heating, electrical usage or an additional unit for bathroom facilities and another unit for showers. In most pallet shelter “villages” there is also a staff unit for counseling and referral services. Without calculating for utilities and ancillary services, erecting just 200 would cost approximately $1.7M. Calculated for 6 months, cost per person would be approximately $1,400 a month.

Steve Ahlquist, publisher of UpriseRI tweeted out that after the housing unit was in place that Josh Saal passed the setup right by – his post:

Housing Czar office response

When asked again what the 274 new housing units were, Saal’s communications from Chris Raia, of Duffy & Shanley responded with this information – referencing the new program funding previously announced on September 30th, 30 days ago. “The Governor was referring to the additional shelter beds that were funded a few weeks ago. The state is not currently directly funding any shelter space at hotel rooms in Cranston.”

  • Amos House Family Shelter (Pawtucket): $1,338,655
  • Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center (Central Falls): $966,870
  • Catholic Social Services of Rhode Island (Providence): $20,000
  • Sojourner House (Providence): $180,899
  • Thrive Behavior Health (West Warwick): $827,103
  • Westerly Area Rest Meals (WARM) Center (Westerly): $220,103

Stay tuned to RINewsToday as we confirm what housing units will be offered to the 400+ homeless Rhode Islanders as we move into the winter.

This is a developing story

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  1. Caroline snyder on November 4, 2022 at 3:14 am

    Well I think they should have a place for them give 6months to do what they have to do to get bk intob Society again . People should take showers every day eat everyday and be out looking for jobs I’ll even go down there myself and help clean it up After a person leaves

  2. Lesley M. on November 1, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    Put them up on the plaza in front of the State House. Cranston already houses Harrington Hall and the ACI, many of whom will be homeless when released.
    There are no openings in any senior housing in Cranston. We need more senior housing for our many seniors who are lifelong residents of Cranston and who want to remain in this city.
    The estimate of $1400 for each pallet doesn’t include utilities per the article. Who is paying for utilities and how is electric provided to them? What about water, heat, sewers, trash? No one has addressed the infrastructure nor has anyone said who is paying for the ”extras”. These will sit there forever if one looks at pictures of other setups. They have mailboxes, welcome mats, wreaths, flowers and yes, trash. Those people aren’t leaving nor will they here in R.I. It’s more “free stuff”, paid for by those of us who worked and still are dishing out money when we’re barely getting by.
    When does it stop?