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Paula Hudson is from West Warwick, RI, and serves as the Executive Director for Better Lives Rhode Island.

In 2017, I moved to Rhode Island in search of doing something meaningful. Before, I had worked with real estate developers in Cape Cod to create affordable housing. I witnessed the helplessness of the homeless and housing insecure and was drawn to becoming a caregiver at Better Lives—to enter this world from the periphery.

Within two months in the role, I advocated for and found homes for three clients. These people were our neighbors, humans like any one of us, but were treated like paper bags. So, I harassed anyone who had anything to do with housing. I kept emailing and calling.

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As the holidays approach, hundreds of people are sleeping on the streets or in tents in our neighborhoods. It can be hard to feel empathy toward the homeless when it’s easier to judge them. No one wants a homeless shelter in their neck of the woods.

To alleviate this housing crisis, I’ve been working with a group of agencies across Rhode Island. There’s not enough money to purchase a building and compete with other bidders and not enough money to purchase shelter beds. Already, our organization’s budget is spread thin between feeding and case managing 5,700 people a month.

For Thanksgiving this year, we’re distributing bagged meals instead of ones to cook ones because of the pandemic. Our pantry at 15 Hayes Street is also open but not everyone has access to a kitchen to prepare food.

It can feel as if there are barriers wherever I turn. But what gives me meaning is knowing I can still be there for others and show them I care. Both professional and personal experiences have shown me how undervalued it is to treat someone with love.

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