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Update: Homeless at the RI State House

This morning it is 32 degrees.

A few weeks ago a demonstration at the RI State House showed what a Pallet Shelter, or “tiny house” was when it was erected for the day. Off to the side were a few tents set up along the perimeter of the State House courtyard walls. Today, the tiny shelter is gone and the tent encampment has grown, along with complaints of trash and/or belongings scattered around. The visual is starting to look much like the encampment just before the primaries when a few people running for office slept outside with the homeless in tents to draw attention to their campaigns, and to the need for housing. Both leaders in that effort lost their elections and both are not involved in the current homeless encampment or are speaking out about the need for emergency housing this winter. We reached out to the state for an update.

In pre-midterm elections, Gov. McKee said that the emergency beds needed would be provided by Thanksgiving – with everyone who wanted a bed having access to one.

In a statement sent to us by Chris Raia, spokesperson for the “housing czar” office – RI Office of Housing and Community Development – Raia responded about the State House tents and also complaints about collecting “trash”.

His statement:

“…outreach workers regularly meet with individuals encamped at the State House to make them aware of support services and shelter options and to facilitate their movement to available beds.

Anyone who is continuing to encamp at this location has declined opportunities to move to alternative shelter resources.”

DCAMM [the RI Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance] is emptying trash cans at the State House on a regular basis. DCAMM is not, however, removing anything that is not placed inside trash cans.

Per the Homeless Bill of Rights, there is a concern about misidentifying items as trash that may have value to those in the encampment.

We are continuing to work with homelessness service providers to identify and connect any individual or household in Rhode Island experiencing homelessness with resources and services they need.”

Raia offered, “We will have an update on further shelter bed expansion efforts in the coming days.”

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In a statement 3 days ago Josh Saal, RI Housing czar said, “In the short term we’ve made some immediate investments to extend our shelter capacity. This year we’ve funded 274 beds and expect to announce more beds…

However, shelter beds in themselves are not the goal. They’re a sign of large structural issues. [Addressing homelessness] involves creating permanent housing, supportive housing, and solutions that will make homelessness rare and brief.”

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The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness provides these stats in a graphically compelling way on their website – representing data as of November 3rd:

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5 Comments

  1. Dr. Matt Perry on November 20, 2022 at 8:53 pm

    I cant believe that Housing Secretary Saal’s office would put out a statement with such blatant lies. The CES waitlist alone has more people on it than there are shelter beds in the state. What magical shelter resources that don’t exist were offered?

    They should be ashamed at these attempts to minimize the problem with outright lies and misdirection. People are dying, and more will die of cold this winter.

    https://upriseri.com/exclusive-those-camping-out-at-state-house-were-not-offered-alternative-shelter-resources/

    • Nancy Thomas on November 20, 2022 at 9:32 pm

      Thank you – two options that we know about are 1-2 floors at Memorial Hospital being prepared and to be run by Amos House. And there is a building that was purchased last year in Pawtucket by Pawt. Housing for indoor use of Pallet Shelters. The Fire Dept. deemed these to be unsuitable and dangerous for indoor use, but the building was bought and Housing has said they have offered it for emergency use for the winter but have not heard back. We will be providing an update on both of these in a followup article in the next few days. Tough issue with no easy solution. TY for your interest.

  2. Rev. Duane Clinker, Mathewson St., UMC on November 18, 2022 at 10:43 pm

    The statement by the Governor’s spokesperson quoted above that . . .

    “Anyone who is continuing to encamp at this location has declined opportunities to move to alternative shelter resources,”

    is quite simply, consciously or not, a lie. Also, consciously or not, this statement from the Governor’s office replicates a right-wing lie of a similar proportions to try to turn the public against the unhoused as if this national scandal was somehow all their fault. As if it was the fault of the masses of ordinary people that investment corporations buy real estate on speculation, and drive prices for regular folks through the roof. Enough. Provide emergency shelter NOW, and long-term affordable units ASAP.

  3. Jennifer Curet on November 18, 2022 at 5:52 pm

    The Governor needs to stop the raising of rent and stop property management from charging 35.00 to 50.00 for a rental application per adult 18 and over. The money property management make on application fees is ridiculous. I have 3 adults in my household we paid 110.00 for an application to never hear from the property management I tried calling them left messages no return phone call or email. RI renters will be living outside if this continues than landlords will be foreclosed on because these rents are to high for a state with a low minimum wage.

  4. Kathy Jellison on November 18, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    When will the leadership recognize that shelter beds are not an answer. Some families prefer to stay together, have a pet, don’t want to be outside all day long because they have to leave the shelter during the day, have some belongings they can’t carry around with them all day. Please stop suggesting that shelters are part of the solution when they are no more than a Band-Aid on a cancer.

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