The latest news and developments about housing and homelessness in Rhode Island.
May 15, 2023
Cranston Street Armory shelter for homeless people in R.I. to close
PROVIDENCE — An hour after the homeless shelter inside the Cranston Street Armory was expected to close, the Rhode Island Department of Housing finally announced on May 15 that it plans to fund various emergency shelter sites across the greater Providence area.
The department has funded an additional 40 rooms at three hotels that have been converted to makeshift shelters in Woonsocket and North Smithfield, which have been staffed by nonprofit Community Care Alliance.
Crossroads Rhode Island, a housing and homeless service provider, will add 10 beds at their facility on Broad Street in Providence. Emmanuel House, a men’s shelter operated by the Diocese of Providence, has opened 20 new beds that could be reserved for individuals leaving the armory. The shelter was previously provided state funding to expand their shelter capacity by at least 30 beds, which will likely become available in the next “several weeks,” according to the housing department. Read more.
May 11, 2023
Proposed affordable housing campus could transform part of East Providence
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With a sliver of sun streaming through the dusty windows, Karen Santilli stood inside an abandoned nursing home that she and three other women recently took over and said she recognized “nothing” would be easy about this project. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her new partners, Santilli detailed their vision of redeveloping the space into a mixed-use campus that includes affordable housing units for families — some of whom are currently homeless with their children.
In late March, a coalition of four women who lead housing and social service organizations in Rhode Island acquired the three blighted lots along Taunton Avenue for $4.5 million. The coalition — called the “Taunton Avenue Collaborative” — includes Santilli, One Neighborhood Builders President and Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins, Foster Forward’s Executive Director Lisa Guillette, and Family Service of Rhode Island’s CEO Margaret Holland McDuff.
The four on May 11 unveiled their $60 million plans to redevelop the site into a mixed-use campus that includes 160 affordable housing units with supportive services, an early childhood development center, and playgrounds. Approximately 40 percent of the units would be subsidized for families who have little to no income.
“We’re transforming blighted, abandoned properties into desperately needed housing. [And we have] this collaborative effort with organizations that voluntarily came together in a sector that sometimes doesn’t get a lot of credit. It’s completely unprecedented,” said Santilli, the CEO of homeless service provider Crossroads Rhode Island. “But this could be a model for the state and the country.” Read more.
May 10, 2023
R.I. to move people from homeless shelter at Armory to Motel 6 in Warwick
WARWICK, R.I. — Days before the shelter at the Cranston Street Armory is expected to close, Mayor Frank Picozzi said that the state’s Housing Department will move dozens of homeless individuals into the Motel 6 on Jefferson Boulevard, raising concerns about crime and the need for more resources in the area.
The Motel 6 is often used as a makeshift shelter, funded by the state and staffed by a third-party nonprofit. About 40 individuals have been staying at the motel since last fall, Picozzi said, after the state contracted Thrive Behavioral Health to administer the program. Since then, the city has seen “increased calls for service” for the motel, Picozzi said.
According to Picozzi, 55 homeless individuals who are currently staying at the armory will be relocated to the motel. Picozzi noted that he met with Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor last week and he and Warwick public safety officials shared their concerns about using the motel for more makeshift shelter rooms.
In a statement sent to the Globe, Pryor said this new shelter represents “one of the steps the Housing Department and our partners are taking to address homelessness in Rhode Island.” Read more.
May 5, 2023
McKee proposes tax credit program to spur production of affordable housing in Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island is one of two states in the Northeast that does not offer tax credits to help finance affordable housing development for low-income rental units. But that could soon change.
On May 5, Governor Daniel J. McKee plans to file a package of budget proposals that includes forming a statewide Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, and an additional $29 million in State Fiscal Recovery Fund (SFRF) investments, aimed at spurring housing development and supporting municipalities.
Rhode Island and New Hampshire are the only states in the Northeast that do not have State Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program, which are used in 26 other states, and are more commonly referred to as LIHTCs. State LIHTC programs are modeled after the federal LIHTC program, offering state-funded tax credits to developers of affordable housing. The proposals must be approved by the General Assembly.
On a call with members of the press Friday, Housing Secretary Stefan I. Pryor said he hoped the LIHTC program would help bridge financing for three to four housing projects each year. The number of units this program could help construct is unclear. Read more.
May 2, 2023
R.I. plans family shelters at Zambarano ‘cottages’ in Burrillville
PROVIDENCE — The Housing Department is planning to open family shelter units in cottages on the Zambarano campus of Eleanor Slater Hospital in Burrillville that were previously used as teen group homes.
The State Properties Commission May 2 morning approved a request from Housing Secretary Stefan I. Pryor to begin negotiations with Tri-County Community Action Agency, a nonprofit, to stand up family shelters for 10 families at three cottages. Due to the housing crisis, coupled with the lack of shelter units dedicated to families, the staff at Tri-County are often handling issues related to homelessness among families with children.
The state-owned cottages were previously staffed by Phoenix House for substance-abuse recovery for adolescents and teens, but were also used as temporary homes by the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families for families during the pandemic who needed to quarantine and isolate. Read more.
April 28, 2023
Despite city’s concerns, state plans to extend shelter at Cranston Street Armory
PROVIDENCE — Despite concerns from neighbors and city officials, the state’s Housing Department has decided to extend operations at the Cranston Street Armory again, keeping the facility open to people who are homeless until May 15.
Operations at the armory will cease on May 15, Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor confirmed.
This is the second time the facility’s operations have been extended; it was originally slated to close by April 15, but was extended to April 30.
City officials were not in favor of another extension. Read more.
April 24, 2023
‘Something is going to break’: What you need to know about a startling new report detailing Rhode Island’s housing crisis
PROVIDENCE — After decades of underinvestment, a lack of state programs that incentivize housing production, and unnecessary red tape, Rhode Island has ranked dead last in the nation in recent years for annual housing production per capita, according to a new, independent review of the state’s housing supply shortage and homelessness.
The 182-page report, conducted by Boston Consulting Group, describes how one-third of all Rhode Island residents are struggling to afford housing, the second-highest growth rate among unsheltered families and individuals in the nation. High housing costs coupled with an aging housing stock have created the state’s housing crisis. Meanwhile, the report says, the state’s restrictive permitting has limited production of new housing units, municipalities do not have enough capacity to support developers, and the state historically has not allocated sufficient funding for housing production and has failed to take advantage of existing federal programs.
The report was commissioned by the Rhode Island Foundation, in partnership with the state’s Housing Department. Read more.
April 20, 2023
R.I. housing department: We are ‘not working to get Amos House back into Memorial as a shelter’
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — After Rhode Island businessman Michael A. Mota announced that the former Memorial Hospital is “now ready and in move-in condition” to house homeless families, state housing officials and the executive director at Amos House say they aren’t moving forward “under current management.”
The decision by the state’s department of housing and Amos House, a nonprofit homeless service provider, to back away from the project abruptly puts an end to months of discussions with Mota, who had forged ahead with redeveloping the former hospital building. Emails obtained by the Globe through a public records request show that state housing officials and Amos House were considering plans to redevelop the former hospital with Mota as recently as March 30 — despite concerns about the ownership of the building, a doctrine of cy pres limiting the building’s use, and accusations that Mota and his companies owe nearly $750,000 to creditors and vendors in multiple states.
Documents from the city of Pawtucket show that Memorial Real Estate Group LLC — a company formed by Mota on Nov. 15, 2022 — was working on redeveloping the former hospital site after a sprinkler leak on Nov. 18, 2022 forced the evacuation of the homeless shelter run by Amos House there.
Speaking on behalf of Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor, Matt Sheaff, a spokesman for Governor Dan McKee, also told the Globe on April 20 that the housing department is “not working to get Amos House back into Memorial as a shelter.” Read more.
March 31, 2023
R.I. Attorney General is filing a motion to intervene on Memorial Hospital development
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Attorney General Peter F. Neronha on March 31 filed a motion to intervene in the development of the former Memorial Hospital property, and is also looking into whether conditions for development legally set in October 2020 have been broken.
The property at 111 Brewster St. is part of a charitable trust going back to 1910. The property was earmarked for use as a hospital, and what eventually became Memorial Hospital was built there. Care New England purchased the buildings in 2013, but the land, and what it can be used for, is still controlled by the trust.
The attorney general’s office is the guardian of charitable trusts in Rhode Island, including the one that dictates the land and building use for the former hospital campus. Neronha’s motion would block a possible foreclosure of the property.
On March 30, the Globe found that the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training is looking into potential labor law violations at the construction site. On March 22, the City of Pawtucket ordered all work on the site to stop. Read more.
March 30, 2023
Michael Mota under scrutiny for potential labor law violations, ordered to stop work at Memorial Hospital
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training is looking into potential labor law violations at the construction site at the former Memorial Hospital, and the City of Pawtucket has ordered all work on the site to stop as of March 22.
The site is being run by Michael A. Mota, a Rhode Island businessman who is being chased for money in multiple states by creditors, investors, and vendors who did business with his various companies, according to a Globe investigation. Mota says that his company, Bayport International Holdings, is redeveloping the 390,000-square-foot former hospital for a variety of uses: he has announced plans that range from a temporary homeless shelter, to housing veterans, to a co-working space, to private office space, to hundreds of luxury apartments.
Mota is the CEO and founder of VirtualCons, an entertainment company focused on shows about mobsters, such as “The Sopranos” -- his passion. He is also the president of Bayport International Holdings, a Florida-based public company considered defunct and labeled “buyer beware” by the OTC Markets.
Mota became involved with the former hospital in November, around the same time that a sprinkler leak forced the evacuation of 87 people living in the temporary homeless shelter there. Soon after, Mota introduced himself to state officials, said that he represented the property’s owners, and that Bayport was going to take over the property and lead the redevelopment.
Then, in December, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training received information about possible labor law violations and launched an “inquiry,” DLT spokeswoman Edwine Paul told the Globe. Read more.
March 22, 2023
R.I. housing secretary says ‘all options are on the table’ for Memorial Hospital
PROVIDENCE — Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor said March 21 the former Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket is still being considered to house families who are homeless, even though questions remain about its ownership and its connection to Rhode Island businessman Michael A. Mota.
The state had been using the former hospital complex to house about 20 to 30 families in a temporary shelter run by Amos House, at $60,000 a month in state-subsidized rent. The families were forced out after a sprinkler leak in late November. That’s when a local entrepreneur claiming to represent new owners introduced himself to state housing officials and began pressing for funding for renovations and a new lease with the state.
A recent Boston Globe investigation found that Mota is being sued by creditors and vendors in 10 lawsuits totaling more than $500,000. As CEO of his entertainment company, VirtualCons, and his cryptocurrency, VirtualCoin, Mota has left furious investors and vendors in multiple states. As CEO of Skyline at Waterplace in Providence, Mota’s company has been months late with rent payments to the city of Providence, and was temporarily closed for not paying taxes.
State housing officials recently toured the former hospital and discussed having families move back in. Pryor would not answer questions from the Globe about whether the Housing Department was moving forward with plans for the former hospital, including possible condemnation of the property, but reiterated that “all options are on the table.” Read more.
March 15, 2023
RI’s new housing secretary faces a series of old problems
PROVIDENCE — When Stefan I. Pryor is confirmed as the state’s housing secretary on March 16, he’ll officially inherit a department that has been plagued by problems since it was carved out of the commerce department in July 2022.
“There’s universal recognition that this is a very important moment in time. There have been a number of false starts,” Pryor, who until June 2022 served as the state’s commerce secretary, told the Globe in a recent interview. “We have to carry out a substantial amount of work that will represent progress.”
Housing was elevated to a cabinet-level position in an effort to address the housing and homelessness crises in Rhode Island. But confusing legislation, outrageous spending, and incomplete planning by the previous housing secretary has hampered work even before it’s really begun.
When the housing department was made into its own entity in July 2022, Joshua Saal, who was the assistant commerce secretary under Pryor at the time, was named housing secretary, a newly created cabinet-level position with a nearly $191,000 annual salary. (Pryor is earning more than $240,000 each year, a bump from his former base salary of $233,000.)
But many housing and homelessness advocates and providers were frustrated with the lack of trust, transparency, and collaboration under Saal.
Saal resigned in January after a series of missteps, including submitting incomplete and inadequate reports to the General Assembly. He had been housing secretary for less than a year.
Pryor told the Globe that it was his “hope and objective” to “help everyone involved look forward rather than backwards.” Read more.
March 9, 2023
‘We have a crisis at every level of the housing spectrum’
On the Rhode Island Report podcast, R.I. House Speaker Shekarchi detailed the 14-bill legislative package he recently unveiled to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis.
He talked about the provisions and goals of the package of housing bills he unveiled. “We are dead last in the country on housing permits,” he said.
None of the bills would override local zoning, he said. “I challenge anybody in the media and the elected official world or anywhere to tell me what is oppressive about any one of these bills,” he said.
But if that’s true, will the legislation change the fact that just seven of the state’s 39 cities and towns meet the requirement that 10 percent of their housing stock qualifies as “affordable” housing? “My hope is that they get the picture, they see what’s happening,” Shekarchi replied. “I think I’ve raised their consciousness, and if they don’t act, then there are things that we as a General Assembly can do.”
For example, he said, “If the population of school-age children is declining, then maybe we need to adjust our formula and maybe we need to adjust the city and town aid to other communities that are bearing the burden of this.” Read more, and listen to the podcast.
March 7, 2023
Days after testifying to R.I. lawmakers, the Strong family is homeless again
WEST WARWICK, R.I. — Just days after testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in support of bills inspired in part by their housing situation, the Strong family, whose spiral into homelessness was documented in the Boston Globe in December, are still struggling to find housing.
Kiel Strong, Holly Barchie, and their four young children had been staying with a family member since the end of September 2022 while they continued to search for a home of their own.
But others were staying at the family member’s house and it became too much. A friend offered to let them live in the home she rented in West Warwick. Once the friend’s landlord saw the eviction on the Strong family’s record, however, he asked them to leave.
They had never owed their former landlord money; he asked them to leave so he could rent the apartment to a family member. A judge had given them a letter confirming that the eviction was not their fault. But unlike other states, no-fault evictions are not sealed in Rhode Island, and the Strong family’s has made it nearly impossible for them to find a home to rent.
After they were evicted, the Strong family stayed in hotels and motels for months, spending more than $40,000 — all of their savings and most of their take-home pay — trying to keep their children from having to sleep outdoors while they waited for a spot in a family shelter.
The Strongs have been working with a housing specialist at Tri-County Community Action Agency, which secured two hotel rooms for the family for at least a week in West Warwick to ensure the children did not sleep outside again.
On March 2, the Strongs testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee in support of a bill sponsored by Representative David Morales, a Providence Democrat, that would prohibit landlords from charging rental application fees. While Rhode Island allows landlords to charge fees ranging from $11 to $100 per rental application, other states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, prohibit such fees. Read more.
March 6, 2023
R.I. program works to prevent evictions among those with hoarding disabilities
WARWICK, R.I. — A new program in Kent County is working to prevent evictions among those with hoarding disabilities, which can often lead to homelessness.
The Hoarding Intervention Response and Evaluation program, also known as HIRE, is centered at Westbay Community Action. The program identifies and provides services to people at risk for hoarding behavior, or who are already engaging in hoarding behavior, before the situation escalates and causes longterm health and safety hazards.
Sarah Lopatka, the chief programs officer at Westbay, said the situation is common among seniors in subsidized housing. Read more.
March 2, 2023
R.I. Speaker Shekarchi unveils housing legislation package that some lawmakers say will spur production
While leaning back into a booth at a Warwick restaurant, Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi ran his hands over a stack of papers that outlined a 14-bill package of housing legislation. With the tap of his knuckles, in an exclusive interview with the Globe, he repeated what he’s dead focused on: “production, production, production.”
The bills are products of nearly two years of hearings and testimony from the Low and Moderate Income Housing (LMIH) Commission and the Land Use Commission, and seek to standardize municipal planning and development processes, update outdated laws that Shekarchi said needed to be brought into the 21st century, and encourage new construction.
The lack of housing, Shekarchi said, is one of Rhode Island’s most critical issues. And the state needs “to build ‘regular’ housing, affordable housing, low-income housing, and [for] those who are currently unhoused,” said Shekarchi, who said he is considering a run for Congress. “This package, to some degree, addresses that.” Read more.
March 2, 2023
7 things R.I. renters should know about newly proposed housing legislation
Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi unveiled a long-awaited housing legislation package Thursday, which focuses on streamlining the production process and providing some relief to tenants, as Rhode Islanders continue to be priced out of places to live amid a shortage of housing stock.
Here’s what Rhode Island renters — and landlords — should know about some of the housing proposals the Assembly could consider this session. Read more.
March 1, 2023
‘It’s hard out there’: R.I. lacks shelter space as Cranston Street Armory could close in 2 months
PROVIDENCE — During a cold snap in December 2010, Mike Marzullo remembers bringing six men into a stone-walled building on Public Street in South Providence. The metal door of the men’s shelter — now known as Emmanuel House — would shut behind him with a clang after welcoming in each person, directing them to a cot on the floor.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” said Marzullo, the director of Emmanuel House.
The shelter was set up to provide a warm space for men without a home to sleep in that night. For the last 12 years, the mission of the shelter owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence hasn’t changed, but the dynamic and growing need for beds has.
Jim Jahnz, the secretary for the Catholic Charities and Social Ministry, said they plan to add an additional 30 beds for women on the shelter’s second floor over the next few months. The expansion is expected to come at a time when homelessness advocates fear an overwhelming number of unsheltered Rhode Islanders will seek refuge within the next two months.
The Cranston Street Armory, which opened as an around-the-clock warming center shortly before Christmas Day, is expected to close in April. A state-owned property staffed by nonprofit Amos House and the Rhode Island National Guard, the armory has served hundreds of individuals seeking warmth and services. Read more.
Jan. 27, 2023
The uphill battle to solve R.I.’s housing crisis
PROVIDENCE — When Stefan I. Pryor becomes Rhode Island’s second-ever housing secretary, he will be tasked with taking on a crisis that has snowballed over three decades.
Housing “is of enormous importance in general, but at this precise moment, we have to enable communities to enhance the affordability for our residents,” said Pryor, who officially starts as housing secretary on Feb. 6.
When he starts, Pryor will be leading a housing department that is woefully understaffed. In his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024, Governor Dan McKee suggested $2.7 million in funding to raise the department’s number of full-time employees to 38, up from 17.
The department has been charged with implementing the $250 million earmarked for housing from the state’s federal ARPA dollars.
Pryor will face housing and homelessness advocates and providers who have been frustrated with the lack of trust, transparency, and collaboration under the previous housing secretary. Read more.
Jan. 26, 2023
R.I. legislators call for using Medicaid funds to house people who are chronically homeless
PROVIDENCE — For five years, Senator Joshua Miller has been sponsoring a bill that would allow Rhode Island to tap Medicaid funding, usually reserved for health care costs, to provide people who have been chronically homeless with housing.
And for five years, that legislation has gone nowhere in the House of Representatives.
But with the state’s housing crisis and homelessness at the center of attention, Miller is hoping this is the year the measure passes.
Miller, a Cranston Democrat, and Representative David A. Bennett, a Warwick Democrat, have introduced the legislation, known as the “Rhode Island pathways project.”
“The idea is simple: chronically homeless individuals are suffering and cost taxpayers thousands of dollars through ER visits, jail stays, and inpatient treatment,” the legislators said in a statement. “But without stable housing, they are very unlikely to recover. What if Medicaid could provide these individuals with housing, helping them get back on their feet and saving taxpayers money?”
The legislation would require the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services to ask the federal government for permission to use Medicaid funds to support housing for homeless people and to conduct a study to assess the impact of using Medicaid funds to provide coverage for the treatment of people who have been chronically homeless.
The program would provide people with behavioral health services, case management, personal care and assistance services, home and community-based services, and housing support services. Miller said the proposal would include seeking permission to use Medicaid funding for rent. Read more.
Jan. 18, 2023
Stefan Pryor named R.I. housing secretary
Governor Dan McKee has appointed former commerce secretary Stefan I. Pryor to be the new Housing Secretary, just a week after Joshua D. Saal resigned.
Pryor will also serve as chairman of the Board of Rhode Island Housing.
Saal, who worked under Pryor for several months as the deputy secretary of commerce for housing starting in January 2022, is expected to remain in his role through Jan. 25.
Hannah Moore, the former assistant commerce secretary, will be named as the executive director of the Housing Resources Commission (HRC). The HRC is a public body formed in 1998 and was designed to be a “board of advisors” to the state’s housing and community development department. Since its inception, no one person has served as executive director of the HRC as their only job. The current executive director, Mike Tondra, is also the director of planning and community development within the housing department.
McKee spokesman Matt Sheaff told the Globe that the governor will seek Senate confirmation for Pryor to be appointed as housing secretary and chair of Rhode Island Housing.
Pryor and Moore will begin Feb. 6. Read more.
Jan. 11, 2023
Housing Secretary Joshua Saal resigns
Housing Secretary Joshua D. Saal submitted his resignation to Governor Dan McKee on Wednesday, after months of criticism over the state’s response to housing and homelessness.
“Governor McKee has accepted the resignation of Housing Secretary Josh Saal,” said McKee spokesman Matthew Sheaff.
Saal will remain in the role for “a short transition period,” said Sheaff. According to Saal’s resignation letter, his resignation is effective “two weeks from today” and he will “make myself available for a period of up to 90 days.” Read more.
Jan. 10, 2023
R.I. housing secretary’s report may not be compliant with state law
The integrated housing report Housing Secretary Joshua D. Saal submitted to the General Assembly on Jan. 5 does not seem to be compliant with the state law, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekachi said.
The report, which was submitted nearly a week after the Dec. 31, 2022 deadline, had errors and was missing key data points and required recommendations.
It was the second time in recent months that the housing secretary had failed to complete critical reports that are expected to be used to combat the state’s housing crisis and are required of him by law. The housing department’s organizational plan, due Nov. 1, 2022, was submitted more than two weeks late after Saal requested and was granted an extension, but the 22-page plan was still missing large sections. Read more.
Jan. 10, 2023
R.I. could open homeless shelter for couples in state-owned property by the end of January
A new emergency shelter in a previously vacant state-owned property may open by the end of the month with 40 beds for individual adults.
The former group home at 662 Hartford Ave. in Providence has not been used for about three years, but the state housing and community development department plans on opening approximately 40 emergency shelter beds by the end of January, according to their presentation to the state properties commission on Tuesday. The plan, which was presented by the Rachel Flaherty, the housing department’s grant project specialist, was approved by the commission.
The housing department is expected to sign a contract with Crossroads Rhode Island, which will be the organization to staff the shelter. Read more.
Jan. 5, 2023
Days after deadline, R.I. housing secretary submits critical report
Housing Secretary Joshua Saal submitted a critical report on Thursday night, days after the deadline set by the same statute that created his position.
The “integrated housing report,” which was due to be submitted to the General Assembly by Dec. 31, required that Saal obtain and include approximately 35 different data points about housing in the state, such as information about the number of housing units available based on income and unit type in each city and town in Rhode Island.
It was also required that he include a recommendation “that shall provide consideration to any and all populations, ethnicities, income levels, and other relevant demographic criteria,” as well as recommendations to resolve any issues that provide “an impediment to the development of housing, including specific data and evidence in support of the recommendation.”
But the report submitted Thursday night is missing key information, including the required recommendations. Read more.
Jan. 3, 2023
R.I. housing secretary fails to submit key report expected to shed light on state’s housing crisis
Housing Secretary Joshua Saal failed to submit a critical report that would have provided key data on the state’s housing crisis and was required of him by law, the Globe has found.
Saal, who has held the state’s top housing job for the past year, was required to submit an “integrated housing report” to the General Assembly by Dec. 31. The report, according to Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s office, was expected to list specific information about how many units are available based on income and unit type in each city and town.
On Tuesday afternoon — nearly three days after the deadline — a spokesman for Saal confirmed the report would not be submitted by the end of the day. Read more.
Dec. 19, 2023
Affordable housing developments receive a boost from Providence Housing Authority
The Providence Housing Authority has awarded 50 project-based vouchers to three developers of new affordable housing in the city. The projects awarded will bring approximately 361 new units of housing to Providence — most of which will be considered affordable — in 2024 and 2025.
Project-based vouchers are a way for public housing authorities to dedicate a portion of their housing choice vouchers to specific developers, which provides developers a dedicated revenue source and the ability to serve the lowest income clients.
For at least 20 years, housing opportunities for extremely low-income tenants and a rental income to developers will be provided to the following developments... Read more.
Dec. 17, 2022
How a hard-working, middle-class family spiraled into homelessness
WARWICK, R.I. — Holly Barchie and Kiel Strong are skilled workers, who had lived in a stable home with their young children for more than three years. In 2021, they earned almost $80,000 from her job as a customer service specialist and his full-time job as a roofer. Her job came with benefits, and it was remote, so she could still care for their four kids.
But less than a year later, Barchie was homeless, standing in the dirt in the middle of the woods — sweaty, dusty, and exhausted — spoon-feeding her 1-year-old by the light of her cell phone’s flashlight.
“I’ve never lived like this. I never thought my kids would be forced to,” said Barchie. “I use to drive down the highway and see tent cities in Providence and not think anything of it. I was blind to it.”
This is a story about how quickly in this dicey economy the known world can implode, how a family doing fairly well can find themselves out of options and out of a home.
Across Rhode Island, shelters for the homeless have been at capacity since the pandemic began. The few shelter beds designated for families have been full for years. The level of need has resulted in people staying at shelters, which are meant to be a temporary or emergency housing option, for several months and, in some cases, more than a year instead of just two or so weeks, according to providers. This has led to longer wait times for those in need of shelter, and forced hundreds of people, including children, to sleep in places considered by the state to be “unfit” for habitation, including cars or outside. There are only 45 shelter units for families across the state, but none in Kent County, which is where the Strongs live and work. Read more.
Dec. 16, 2022
R.I. judge denies preliminary injunction for McKee’s order to clear homeless encampment outside State House
PROVIDENCE — Superior Court Judge David Cruise on Dec. 16 denied a preliminary injunction sought against Governor Dan McKee’s order that an encampment of homeless Rhode Islanders must leave the State House grounds.
Cruise said he found “no violations” of the First Amendment or the state’s Homeless Bill of Rights, which prohibits discrimination based on housing status. His ruling focused on the state’s ban on overnight use of the State House’s grounds, which he said was a rule “not aimed at any one group.”
The defense, led by attorneys R. Bart Totten and Stephen D. Lapatin of Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C., cited cases elsewhere which found that there was a time, place, and manner for protests on state-owned property, even if the policies were not shared with the public.
ACLU of Rhode Island cooperating attorney Lynette Labinger “respectfully” objected to Cruise’s decision.
It is unclear when the homeless Rhode Islanders living in tents on the State House grounds will have to leave.
Center for Justice executive director Jennifer Wood said she and the ACLU of Rhode Island would need to evaluate the judge’s decision before figuring out next steps.
She said there’s “always” a chance of an appeal. Read more.
Dec. 16, 2022
Cranston Street Armory will open Friday night as 24/7 warming center for homeless Rhode Islanders
PROVIDENCE — After weeks of complications, the state will open the Cranston Street Armory on Friday night as a 24/7 warming center for homeless individuals.
The governor’s office announced Dec. 16 that Amos House, a provider of services for homeless people, will staff the facility. However, their proposal to the state to run the warming station has not yet been approved.
A committee of the Continuum of Care board met Dec. 16 and reviewed the Amos House proposal.
Plans to open the Cranston Street Armory have faced many hurdles since the state announced on Nov. 30 it would become a warming center for homeless individuals. Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Josh Saal sent a letter of intent to nearly 30 organizations on Nov. 30, soliciting proposals for operating the warming center. But none responded by the initial deadline of Dec. 7 or the extended deadline of Dec. 8.
Earlier this week, due to the lack of vendors submitting proposals, Governor Dan McKee authorized members of the Rhode Island National Guard to temporarily assist with the opening and operation of the proposed around-the-clock warming station. Read more.
Dec. 15, 2022
R.I. attorney general declines to represent McKee in challenges to order to clear homeless encampment
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha’s office declined to represent Governor Dan McKee in cases related the state’s attempt to evict the encampment of homeless people from State House grounds.
The governor’s office first contacted the attorney general’s office to request legal representation when it learned that it would be served with a lawsuit on Dec. 8, when Warwick-based attorney Rick Corley filed a suit requesting a temporary restraining order, which was issued by Superior Court Judge David Cruise the following day.
McKee is being represented by attorneys R. Bart Totten and Stephen D. Lapatin of Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C., who have not responded to the Globe’s repeated requests for comment. It’s unclear why McKee or his office hired private counsel instead of being represented by attorneys who are state employees in his own office.
Andrea Palagi and Matt Sheaff, both spokespeople within the governor’s office, did not respond to requests for comment on hiring private counsel or the case itself. Read more.
Dec. 13, 2022
ACLU, Center for Justice file lawsuit challenging order to evict homeless people at State House encampment
PROVIDENCE — The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and the Center for Justice have filed a suit against Governor Dan McKee on behalf of members of the encampment of homeless people outside the State House, alleging the state’s actions to “evict” them is unconstitutional.
The suit, which was filed in Rhode Island Superior Court on Dec. 13, marks the second complaint filed against the governor’s order demanding that those in the encampment leave or face fines or arrest. The complaint, which names more than two dozen plaintiffs, requests that the people in the encampment be allowed to remain on State House grounds, and argues it is the encampment members’ rights of free speech and expression to do so, and their right to “peaceably assemble and petition the government.”
The ACLU said the state was violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution, the Rhode Island Constitution, and the Homeless Bill of Rights.
State housing Secretary Josh Saal issued a statement through his spokesman Chris Raia to the Globe in response to the lawsuit Dec. 13: “Just as we have been, we’re focused on continuing to do outreach and offer shelter to the individuals and couples who are camped outside the State House.” Read more.
Dec. 12, 2022
Can Governor McKee really evict homeless people sleeping on State House grounds?
PROVIDENCE — Local and national legal experts are questioning whether Governor Dan McKee has the authority to evict homeless people sleeping on the grounds of the Rhode Island State House, which is public property.
On Dec. 7 the people, who have been sleeping outside in tents, were given 48 hours to vacate the grounds or face fines or arrest. According to notices handed out at the time, the state promised to provide them with a bed in an emergency shelter and transportation from the State House.
But Rhode Island currently has a severe shortage of shelter beds for people who are homeless.
“If there aren’t enough available shelter beds, then you can’t criminally punish someone from taking care of their basic rights like sleeping and sheltering,” Eric Tars, the legal director of the National Homelessness Law Center in Washington D.C., said in an interview with the Globe. “There doesn’t seem like there are beds available, let alone accessible.”
Tars noted that in Martin v. Boise, a case the center took on in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court decided that unhoused individuals could not be punished for sleeping on public property if there were a lack of alternatives. Criminal and civil penalties used to punish those who are unhoused for existing in public spaces with nowhere else to go can be a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which refers to cruel and unusual punishment.
“The State House is owned by the state. The people it represents are the citizens of Rhode Island. My clients are citizens of Rhode Island. So there is an argument that these citizens are owners of the grounds of the State House,” said Richard Corley, an attorney who used to serve on the Warwick City Council, who on Dec. 8 filed a suit on behalf of the people sleeping outside. On Dec. 9, Superior Court Judge David Cruise issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the state from clearing the tent encampment until Wednesday. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. Read more.
Dec. 8, 2022
Frustrations mount over plan to use Cranston Street Armory to help the homeless
PROVIDENCE — For months, advocates for the homeless have called on the state to add additional shelter beds before winter sets in, as Rhode Island’s unhoused population continues to rise. So when the state announced on Nov. 30 that it planned to open the Cranston Street Armory as a 24/7 warming station this winter, many social service providers applauded the move.
But this week, many of those same leaders are expressing their frustration with the state housing department’s lack of organization, and the armory’s safety issues and inadequate capacity.
Housing Secretary Josh Saal said his department sent a letter of intent to nearly 30 organizations on Nov. 30, soliciting proposals for operating the warming center.
The organizations contacted by the housing department were given a week to respond with a proposal. Proposals were due Dec. 7, but the deadline was pushed back by 24 hours after no one responded. The deadline was extended again, to Dec. 15
As of Dec. 8, no proposals had been submitted. Read more.
Dec. 7, 2022
McKee staff notify homeless encampment at R.I. State House to leave or face fines, arrest
PROVIDENCE — Dozens of unhoused people who are sleeping outside the Rhode Island State House were handed notices on Dec. 7, informing them they would have to leave by Dec. 9, which has caused an outcry among advocates.
The notices, which were delivered to those in the encampment by members of Governor Dan McKee’s staff, said each person in the tents would be provided with a bed in an emergency shelter and transportation from the State House.
But that offer might not be fulfilled immediately, according to Caitlin Frumerie, the executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness.
The notice provided to those sleeping in tents outside the State House on Wednesday said those who do not vacate the property by 9 a.m. on Dec. 9 may “result in the violator being subject to [a] fine and/or arrest.”
In an email to the Globe on Wednesday morning, McKee spokeswoman Andrea Palagi said street outreach teams from local homelessness providers contracted by the state’s Department of Housing “have routinely checked on the individuals outside the State House over the last several months to connect individuals to available services and shelter.” Read more.
Dec. 6, 2022
Cranston Street Armory faces hurdles to opening 24/7 warming station for R.I.’s homeless population
PROVIDENCE — The Cranston Street Armory, which is expected to become an around-the-clock temporary warming station for Rhode Island’s homeless population this winter, is facing hurdles in order to open.
At a State Properties Committee meeting on Dec. 6, Housing Secretary Josh Saal presented his plan, but admitted to not yet identifying an agency that serves the homeless or other vendor to operate the warming center. Plans to use the armory as a warming center were announced on Nov. 30, which was the same day the state sent letters of intent to a “wide network” of “consolidated homeless fund vendors” to help provide wraparound services for the site.
Nearly 30 housing and homelessness organizations, such as House of Hope and the Housing Network of R.I., were sent this letter of intent, but Governor Dan McKee’s spokesman Matthew Sheaff said it was a “wide network” of providers. Read more.
Nov. 30, 2022
R.I. plans to open 24/7 warming station for homeless people in Cranston Street Armory
PROVIDENCE — Governor Dan McKee’s administration is moving forward on a plan to open a temporary, 24-hour warming station inside the Cranston Street Armory, the Globe has learned.
This warming station will be open to individuals experiencing homelessness, which means they are living in a place not meant for habitation such as on the street, in a car, or in an abandoned building, according to governor’s spokesman Matthew Sheaff.
“The vision for this project is to serve as a temporary, low-barrier option that will immediately provide a safe indoor space for some of the most vulnerable people in this population, regardless of shelter or housing availability on any given night,” wrote Sheaff in an email.
The state expects to begin operating it as soon as possible, said Sheaff, and keep it open through April 15. Read more.
Nov. 23, 2022
Days after homeless people and advocates rallied outside governor’s office, R.I. will fund a portion of the shelter beds requested
PROVIDENCE — Just two days after dozens of homeless Rhode Islanders rallied outside the governor’s office, demanding more shelter beds be made available, Governor Dan McKee’s administration announced Nov. 23 that it would fund a fraction of their request.
McKee’s office said $1.4 million has been administered to fund 77 new emergency shelter beds, bringing the total number of new shelter beds funded this year to 351. With these additions, the state’s housing department expects the statewide shelter capacity to include more than 1,000 operational beds.
The governor said in a statement that expanding shelter capacity will “help ensure we have the resources to support families and individuals who are experiencing homelessness.” Read more.
Nov. 21, 2022
Homeless Rhode Islanders and advocates rally outside Gov. McKee’s office, calling for more shelter space
PROVIDENCE — On Nov. 21 Ruth “Diamond” Madsen joined dozens of advocates and homeless individuals at a rally where they marched to Governor Dan McKee’s closed office door, pleading with him and state Housing Secretary Josh Saal to add at least 500 additional shelter beds this winter.
In front of TV station cameras and other members of the press, Madsen turned to face the crowd and asked if anyone there “chose to be homeless.” Echoing through the hallway, they responded with “no” chants.
Nearly two dozen homeless individuals have been sleeping outside the State House’s plaza for weeks. Read more.
Oct. 3, 2022
Homelessness in R.I. could reach an all-time high this winter, advocates say
PROVIDENCE — Holding hand-written signs that read, “Housing is a human right,” and “End homelessness now,” about 50 advocates for the homeless marched to Governor Dan McKee’s office on Oct. 3, demanding the state declare a state of emergency over the inadequate number of shelter beds available this winter. Advocates and outreach workers say they are expecting more people will be forced to live outside this winter than at any other point in decades.
“I’ve been tracking this data since 1990. We’ve never had this many people outside as winter is approaching,” said Eric Hirsch, a Providence College sociology professor and co-chair of the state’s Homeless Management Information System Steering Committee.
Approximately 1,260 people — including children — were waiting for shelter in Rhode Island, according to data by the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness as of Sept. 24. That’s an increase of 70 people compared to the week prior. Read more.
Sept. 30, 2022
R.I. to spend $3.5m on additional shelter beds before winter
PROVIDENCE — As winter approaches, Rhode Island is distributing $3.5 million to six local organizations to create additional shelter space to help homeless people, the state housing department announced Sept. 30.
The funding will allow organizations to create 231 new beds in addition to the 64 beds that were funded through the Consolidated Homeless Fund earlier this summer, according to the governor’s office.
The $3.5 million is the first round of awards made after the housing department asked nonprofits to submit fully planned projects to add shelter space. Chris Raia, a spokesman with the housing department, said additional awards related to shelter expansion will be announced “in the coming weeks.” Read more.
Sept. 30, 2022
Could an Olmstead plan solve part of R.I.’s homeless problem?
PROVIDENCE — Housing and mental health advocates are pushing Governor Dan J. McKee to create a state Olmstead plan, which could help fund housing solutions for homeless Rhode Islanders who are living with disabilities or struggling with addiction, their mental health, and other issues.
Rhode Island is one of seven states — and the only one in New England — that does not have any plan in place to protect this vulnerable population. An Olmstead plan coordinates and funds supervised, affordable, and supportive housing options for people who live independently with SSI/SSDI benefits and housing vouchers, educational and employment supports, transportation, home modification, criminal justice reform, community and home-based services, an various treatment options, among other supports.
Roughly 63 percent of Rhode Island’s homeless population are people with disabilities, according to 2020 data from the R.I. Homeless Management Information System. Read more.
Aug. 15, 2022
Providence mayoral candidate Cuervo calls for public housing developer and rent stabilization
PROVIDENCE — Providence mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo on Aug. 15 called for creating a municipal developer program to build new affordable housing in the city, and he called for capping rent increases at 4 percent annually for apartments that are 15 years or older.
Cuervo said he worked to develop a series of housing policy proposals with Reclaim Rhode Island, a progressive group founded by volunteers for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in Rhode Island. His housing plan includes a public developer, a rent stabilization program, a mandatory eviction diversion program, and proposed land use changes.
Cuervo is running in a Democratic primary against former state administration director Brett Smiley and Providence City Council member Nirva LaFortune, and no Republican candidates are in the race. Read more.
Aug. 11, 2022
McKee signs legislation dedicating $250m to affordable housing for low-income R.I. residents
WARWICK — Governor Dan McKee signed a long-sought bill that dedicates $250 million toward affordable housing for the state’s low-income residents.
“This historic investment will not only create and preserve thousands of units of housing, but it will also transform blighted properties, strengthen communities, and create good-paying construction jobs in the process,” McKee said on Aug. 11 , accompanied by housing advocates, politicians, and US Senator Jack Reed.
As a cosponsor to the LIFELINE Act, Reed helped make $350 billion in flexible funding available under the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to be used for the development, repair, and operation of affordable housing units.
McKee said housing remained a priority. Of the $250 million, he said his administration will work to create new housing across all income levels, stabilize households that are at risk of involuntary displacement or homelessness, and improve the quality and safety of the existing housing stock. Read more.
Aug. 4, 2022
Providence mayoral candidates focus on drug addiction recovery, lack of city housing
PROVIDENCE — With just over a month until the primary, city residents filled the Jim Gillen Teen Center on Aug. 4 as three candidates looking to succeed outgoing Jorge O. Elorza as mayor made their case on statewide issues.
There was little disagreement on the major issues among the candidates, who are all Democrats. Each agreed housing is a human right and that additional housing construction is necessary in the city.
Gonzalo Cuervo said he knew the city was never going to be “flush with cash,” but that Providence has many tools at its disposal to help with housing. While Nirva LaFortune and Brett Smiley both said they would continue using multi-year Tax Stabilization Agreements — often called TSAs — which usually involve low property tax payments up front and gradually increase until the deal ends — for the construction of housing. Read more.
July 28, 2022
Housing has become less affordable in much of New England, new report finds
PROVIDENCE — A person earning minimum wage in Rhode Island would have to work at least 79 hours each week in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, according to a new national report.
The Out of Reach report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition also found that Rhode Islanders need to earn a minimum of $24.32 per hour to afford an average two-bedroom apartment at fair market rate in 2022.
The fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Rhode Island is $1,264. To be considered affordable, rent plus utilities should cost no more than 30 percent of a household’s income. Therefore, a household would have to earn $4,215 monthly and $50,579 annually on average, according to the report. Rents are more expensive in certain parts of the state, such as the Newport-Middleton-Portsmouth area, and could require a higher income. Read more.
July 22, 2022
5,000 mobile showers: A milestone R.I. housing advocates would like to see reach zero
PROVIDENCE — It wasn’t a celebration. There was no cake, one speaker noted, no candles or confetti.
On Friday, House of Hope CDC, an organization that serves people who are homeless in Rhode Island, recognized the more than 5,000 free showers and more than 1,000 free haircuts provided at its Shower to Empower mobile unit since its April 2018 launch.
But the real long-term goal is to not have to do this anymore — the goal is to get people housing, so they don’t need to come out to the Dexter Training Ground for things as simple and humane as personal grooming. Read more.
May 27, 2022
Brown and McKee spar over homelessness, Human Services jobs
PROVIDENCE — Progressive challenger Matt Brown sharply criticized Governor Daniel J. McKee during a gubernatorial candidate forum May 27, blasting the McKee administration’s efforts to shelter the homeless and its plan to fill 48 vacant state jobs by contracting with a firm blamed for a massive computer debacle.
McKee, a Democrat, responded by accusing Brown of “grandstanding” on the homelessness issue, and defended the hundreds of millions of dollars he said his administration has budgeted for affordable housing and winter shelter programs.
The Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty hosted the forum titled, “Raising Rhode Islanders Out of Poverty,” at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. Read more.
May 13, 2022
Senate bill would create state Department of Housing
PROVIDENCE — A state Senate bill introduced on May 13 would create a state Department of Housing, tapping $300 million in federal funds to buy and build homes in response to Rhode Island’s housing crisis.
Senator Meghan E. Kallman, a Pawtucket Democrat, introduced the Create Homes Act, saying no other state has taken this action to address to acute shortages of affordable housing.
Rhode Island has an array of housing organizations that are doing excellent work, such as Rhode Island Housing, HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University, and local organizations such as the Pawtucket Central Falls Development, she said.
But Kallman, who is vice chair of the Senate Housing and Municipal Government Committee, said there is clearly a need to have put more “muscle” behind a single entity that could create more housing throughout the state. Read more.
May 12, 2022
Protesters call for McKee to do more for homeless people
PROVIDENCE — Luz Arroyo choked back tears as she stood outside Governor Daniel J. McKee’s office on May 12, talking about how she was evicted from her apartment in Pawtucket after her husband died and now sleeps in a car. “I don’t have anywhere to go,” she said.
She called for state government to “help not only me but other people that are homeless,” saying, “I know how these people are suffering out here, just like I am suffering.”
Arroyo was one of about 25 protesters who came to State House demanding that McKee do more to help homeless people who are being forced to leave winter shelters and hotel beds.
McKee’s proposed budget includes a $250 million investment in housing, press secretary Alana O’Hare said in a statement Thursday. His proposal includes $21.5 million to assist those experiencing homelessness or housing instability, $5 million to increase shelter capacity, and $90 million to create and preserve housing units for households that earn up to 80 percent of the area median income, O’Hare said. Read more.
May 3, 2022
Housing remains top issue in R.I. among families of color, says national report
PROVIDENCE — More than 10 percent of Rhode Island babies are living in “crowded housing,” which is when homes have “numerous people who live in close quarters,” according to a new report on the well-being of babies in the US, which published May 3.
According to “The State of Babies Yearbook: 2022,” which is part of the Zero to Three’s Think Babies, there are greater crowded housing disparities among families of color. In Rhode Island, which still ranked high in the report among the rest of the US for how the state was supporting babies and families, reported that about 32 percent of Asian babies and 34 percent of Black babies live in crowded housing and about 15 percent of babies in all low-income families live in crowded housing.
Most families of color in Rhode Island live in crowded housing at higher rates compared to the national average, Patricia Cole, Zero to Three’s senior director of federal policy. Housing for Rhode Island’s babies and toddlers, she explained, is one of the biggest issues. Read more.
April 26, 2022
Housing advocates demand Governor McKee extend emergency shelter beds
PROVIDENCE — Housing advocates lined the hall outside Governor Daniel J. McKee’s office at the State House April 26, demanding that he provide temporary emergency shelter to those who will soon be forced to leave winter shelter beds.
Activists, who were shouting “Housing is a human right” outside the governor’s closed office door, were largely organized by the RIHAP, Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), and Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE).
Rhode Island set aside funding in December to establish more than 500 hotel and emergency shelter beds due to the COVID-19 crisis. The people who have occupied those beds for months are being phased out, which will force many to sleep outside this summer, advocates said.
The protestors asked the state to immediately order temporary emergency shelter with 500 beds and find sites for them, including the House of Hope’s ECHO Village. They also demanded a well-planned funding path for these constituents to be placed in permanent supportive housing or deeply subsidized housing. Read more.
April 22, 2022
Affordable housing developers to renovate South Providence’s run down ‘Clown Town’
PROVIDENCE — For many in the South Providence neighborhood once nicknamed “Clown Town” by outsiders because of the brightly painted exteriors, the revitalization of this now blighted section has been a long time coming.
On April 25, Rhode Island Housing, Omni Development, and Wingate Capital Associates will begin to redevelop the abandoned, fenced off complex into 79 affordable housing units with four townhouses for sale.
Construction will take 18 to 24 months, but once its complete there will be on-site property management, resident services, a computer lab, on-site laundry facilities and parking, and each unit will be energy efficient.
Families with incomes ranging from 30 percent to 80 percent of the area median income will be able to afford to live in 54 of the units at 16 Somerset St. and 25 of the units at 15 Somerset St. That means only 30 percent of their income will go toward rent. For a four-person household, the maximum annual income would be $69,600, according to the US Office of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD. Read more.
April 21, 2022
More than half of Rhode Island’s lowest-income renters are at risk of homelessness
More than half of Rhode Island’s lowest-income renters are severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing alone, and are at risk of homelessness, according to a newly released report.
On April 21, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released its annual “The Gap” report, which looks at the shortage of affordable homes across the country.
Rhode Island has just 51 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income (also known as ELI) households, who are those with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30 percent of the area median income (AMI).
Most of Rhode Island’s housing stock pre-dates 1980, and advocates said that the “decades of underinvestment in housing development” is forcing the lowest-income renters to rent homes that are more expensive than they can afford. Read more.
April 20, 2022
Makeshift homeless shelter Operation Hunker Down is shutting down
PROVIDENCE — After more than 100 days of operating as a makeshift emergency homeless shelter in the shuttered American Lithuanian Citizens Beneficial Club building on Smith Street, the organizers behind “Operation Hunker Down” have shut it down.
On April 19, Providence Fire Captain Derek Silva made a surprise visit to the building to ensure it was up to code and occupancy levels were being enforced. He found fire logs hadn’t been filled out by volunteers over the weekend, David Gerard O’Connor, who operated the shelter, told the Globe.
Operation Hunker Down opened in January when O’Connor, a 2014 Providence College graduate who lives nearby, invited five people experiencing homelessness to sleep on mattresses in the old building on a freezing night. Less than a month later, 35 to 45 people were staying there.
Since opening the shelter, O’Connor said it has served more than 100 people experiencing homelessness. He said more than 40 have gone into detox and other programs. Read more.
April 15, 2022
How much did rents go up in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island renters are paying an average of 11.2 percent more per month in rent — and as much as 126 percent more in some areas — than they did a decade ago, according to recent census data.
Rents in Rhode Island rank No. 23 highest in the US, according to the data released earlier this year, with a median renter paying $1,031 per month, up from $927 in 2010. In West Greenwich, monthly rents rose to $2,200 per month, up from $928 per month just a decade earlier.
Median rents in Rhode Island are lower than those in Massachusetts (nearly $1,336), Connecticut ($1,201), and New Hampshire ($1,145). Read more.
April 11, 2022
How much did housing costs go up in Rhode Island?
Newly released census data shows that Rhode Island ranked No. 15 in the country for highest housing values among US states, and costs are only rising.
Rhode Island had a median home value of nearly $277,000 in 2020, according to data collected for the American Community Survey 5-year estimates. Among New England states, it falls behind the median home value of nearly $400,000 in Massachusetts and just shy of $279,000 in Connecticut.
The survey tracked data from a time period between 2016 and 2020, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on an already booming residential real-estate market.
The survey did not offer a breakdown of unit size, yet Rhode Island had only 1.9 percent more housing units in 2020 than it did a decade ago, but the population grew by 4.3 percent during that same time. Read more.
March 30, 2022
Operation Hunker Down shelter ordered to reduce capacity, more than 20 people to be displaced
PROVIDENCE — More than 20 people could be back on the street after the state’s fire board ordered Operation Hunker Down, a makeshift emergency homeless shelter in the Smith Hill section of Providence, to lower its capacity to 16 people.
David Gerard O’Connor opened Operation Hunker Down in the shuttered American Lithuanian Citizens Beneficial Club building on Smith Street in January, inviting five homeless people to sleep on mattresses in the old building on a night when temperatures dipped below zero.
But after providing shelter, outreach, food, and other support services for nearly three months, the state fire board told the shelter on March 29 that they had 72 hours to dwindle its capacity down to 16 people. There were more than 40 people staying there as of March 29.
Local zoning laws require shelters to have a maximum capacity of 16 residents, the Rhode Island Fire Safety Code Board of Appeals and Review told the Globe. The fire board also heard testimony from the Providence Fire Department and the Office of the State Fire Marshal regarding unsafe conditions at the shelter, according to the board’s statement to the Globe. Read more.
March 30, 2022
Life in a Motel 6 brings hope to homeless people. Until the money runs out.
WARWICK, R.I. — When Heather Geraghty-Wright is going through a tough time, she looks at a tattoo on her right shin, where “Love Mommy” is written in her mother’s handwriting. Sitting on the half-made bed in her motel room, she caresses the tattoo with her electric blue-painted nails as the ashes from her lit cigarette tumble down her leg.
At 49, she’s dealt with more than a few hard times: Her mom’s boyfriend started molesting her when she was 2 and continued until she was 13. She started experimenting with crack and meth at a young age, and got pregnant twice by the time she was 21. She dropped out of school in the seventh grade, and was sent to prison for 34 months for her first drug possession charge. There, she earned her GED and took classes in building mechanics. But when she got out, she found herself in a series of abusive situations.
Right now, she stays at this Motel 6 thanks to a grassroots effort led by Help the Homeless R.I. She and about a dozen others were living in nearby tent encampments. The small nonprofit pays for the rooms using a mix of donations, city, and other funds. But she’s facing another hardship: Funding is running out. Read more.
March 23, 2022
More than 90 percent of R.I. domestic violence victims couldn’t access housing, emergency shelter
PROVIDENCE — In a single day last fall, approximately 61 victims of domestic violence requested supportive services in Rhode Island, from housing to transportation, that assistance programs could not provide because of a lack of resources. But 93 percent of these unmet services were for housing and emergency shelter in particular. This is compared to a single day in 2020, where 58 percent of those unmet needs among victims were for housing or emergency shelter.
“The housing crisis is really impacting domestic violence victims. There’s just less affordable housing, so victims are staying in shelter much longer than they ever had to,” said Lucy Rios, the interim executive director Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in a phone interview with the Globe. Read more.
March 22, 2022
R.I. receives $10m from HUD for emergency shelters, rapid rehousing
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island will receive more than $10.4 million to help local providers and community partners deliver affordable housing and supportive services to those experiencing homelessness.
The federal funding, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Continuum of Care grants, will support 37 local homeless housing and service programs across the state. The funds will help both individuals and families, said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, on Tuesday. Read more.
March 17, 2022
Despite unprecedented federal dollars, housing advocates say R.I. still isn’t designating enough funds to build, preserve units
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island needs more than 20,000 homes that low-income renters could afford, despite an unprecedented amount of cash available to help the state develop new units. The state has more than $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds from Congress and a huge state surplus, yet housing advocates say that not enough of that money is being dedicated toward housing.
Governor Dan McKee proposed a $250 million investment in housing and homelessness assistance using the recovery funds in his FY2023 budget this year. It’s the biggest chunk allocated from the ARPA funds, but only $90 million of that money will go toward “creating and preserving” about 1,500 units for households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income (which is about $69,200 for a four-person household).
But the actual investment was still only about half of what advocates asked the McKee administration to allocate toward the problem.
“We have a lot of need,” Melina Lodge, the executive director of the Housing Network of Rhode Island, said on a call Wednesday night. “And the challenge when getting a once-in-a-lifetime investment is wondering: When will Rhode Island ever get this type of money from the federal government ever again? I don’t envy the government that has to make the decisions. Read more.
March 10, 2022
‘Redlining never really went away’: Black Rhode Islanders still face racism when buying a home
PROVIDENCE — Disparities in home ownership between Black people and people of all other races persist. In the US, more white, Asian, and Hispanic Americans have owned homes than Black Americans, according to a newly published report from researchers at Brown University called “The State of Black Rhode Island Homeownership.”
And the disparity is especially bad in Rhode Island. Overall home ownership in the Ocean State is about the same as in the US overall: 64 percent of all Americans owned a home in 2019, and 62 percent of all Rhode Islanders did.
The disparity becomes clear when the data is broken down by race. In the US, 73 percent of white Americans owned a home in 2019, compared to 42 percent of Black Americans. But in Rhode Island, 62 percent of all residents owned a home in 2019, compared to just 34 percent of Black Rhode Islanders, according to Dr. Akilah Dulin, a behavioral and social sciences professor and lead researcher on the report, which was paid for by the United Way of Rhode Island. Read more.
March 10, 2022
R.I. House unveils 11 bills to address housing crisis
House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Representative June S. Speakman on March 10 unveiled a package of 11 bills to address Rhode Island’s house crisis.
The bills aim to streamline development, provide more complete and timely information about housing, and help cities and towns meet affordable housing goals.
“We need all types of housing,” Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, said during a State House news conference. “We need mixed-use housing, single-family housing, multi-family housing, low- and moderate-income housing, public housing, affordable housing. We need more of a supply. We must end or eliminate the barriers to creation. This package which we have introduced makes a significant step in that direction.” Read more.
Feb. 15, 2022
As R.I.’s housing crisis becomes critical, private citizens are addressing it on their own
PROVIDENCE — David Gerard O’Connor had planned to turn the shuttered American Lithuanian Citizens Beneficial Club building on Smith Street into a community center, hosting events and welcoming back regulars. Instead, on a cold night in January, he opened the old building to five homeless people who had nowhere else to turn, letting them sleep on mattresses he’d placed on the function hall’s floor.
He dubbed the makeshift shelter Operation Hunker Down. Now, less than a month later, 35 to 45 people sleep there on any given night.
“I’ve seen a lot of these people around the neighborhood,” said O’Connor, a 2014 Providence College graduate. “No matter their circumstance, they are still human. They deserve a warm place to sleep at night.” Read more.
Feb. 15, 2022
At Operation Hunker Down, life in a makeshift shelter brings hope and heartache
PROVIDENCE — “It was Jan. 11. I looked at the screen on my computer after teaching a class and saw that it was going to be 10 degrees outside,” said David Gerard O’Connor. He knew that people were sleeping outside, and mostly in encampments that were getting dismantled by the city and police. “I looked around and realized that I needed to do something.”
Volunteers keep Operation Hunker Down running, and they have faced hurdle after hurdle: None of them are paid, the shelter does not receive funding from the city or the state, at least one of them needs to be on premises at all times, and there are fewer than five people who volunteer consistently. Some of them are close to homelessness themselves.
Here are some of their stories. Read more.
Jan. 20, 2022
During a crisis, zoning laws are hindering construction of affordable housing units
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — This week, three young families finally moved into a renovated multi-family home trading years of housing insecurity for stability after aging out of the foster care system.
But every time Lisa Guillette walks into the building, just blocks away from the old McCoy stadium, she says she feels a little heartbroken over what could have been on the top floor. Read more.
Jan. 25, 2022
New report says RI’s property tax system is out of balance, hindering affordable housing construction, economic development
PROVIDENCE — Property taxes are the largest source of local revenue in Rhode Island, but yet, are causing imbalances in municipal services, like the construction of affordable housing, K-12 education, and economic development, according to a newly released report by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC).
The report, “A System Out of Balance: Property Taxation Across Rhode Island,” which was released Jan. 25, found there’s a striking difference among tax burdens of resident homeowners, nonresident homeowners, and businesses. Read more.
Jan. 23, 2022
R.I. nonprofits awarded $2m in federal funding to help the homeless
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — U.S. Senator Jack Reed announced that $2 million in federal funding is available to help Rhode Island charitable organizations assist people experiencing homelessness this winter.
Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, made the announcement about the new Emergency Food and Shelter Program funding with the United Way of Rhode Island on Friday.
The money can be used to supplement food and shelter programs run by local nonprofits and social service organizations.
About $1.25 million will be used in Providence County and the rest will be distributed across the state. Read more.
Jan. 10, 2022
R.I. launches $50 million homeowner assistance fund
PROVIDENCE — For Rhode Island-based homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments, a new government assistance program may be able to help.
The governor’s office and Rhode Island delegation Jan. 10 announced a new $50 million program that will help provide financial assistance to eligible Rhode Island homeowners who have struggled to pay their mortgage payments or other housing-related expenses due to the pandemic.
The program, Homeowner Assistance Fund Rhode Island (HAF-RI), is designed to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners that have experienced financial hardships. Read more.
Dec. 8, 2021
Crossroads R.I. receives nearly $500k to begin homelessness intervention
PROVIDENCE — The mayor and nonprofit stakeholders on Dec. 8 announced a citywide initiative to address homelessness and substance misuse for Providence’s most vulnerable residents, which will use $495,000 of the city’s American Rescue Plan dollars.
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, members of the city council, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Providence Foundation, and Crossroads Rhode Island will collaborate on a new mobile diversion program for Providence residents experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Through the new program, Crossroads will assist individuals living in places not meant for human habitation to either regain permanent housing or enter a shelter or transitional housing program.
Assistance will range from financial support for costs related to securing housing to referrals for mental and behavioral health supports. Read more.
Dec. 7, 2021
Senator Mendes and others have slept in tents outside the R.I. State House for a week
Senator Cynthia Mendes, who is running for lieutenant governor of Rhode Island, alongside former secretary of state Matt Brown, who is running for governor, and a group activists pitched tents a week ago on the Smith Street side of the State House, sleeping outside to call attention to the plight of hundreds of unhoused Rhode Islanders.
And they want Governor Dan McKee and state leaders to take action.
“You feel vulnerable sleeping outside. While you’re unconscious, somebody can harm you, somebody could reach you, get to you, and it’s a tremendously vulnerable feeling that is really hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it yourself,” Mendes said.
In October, more than 570 Rhode Islanders slept in their cars or outside, and 156 were in households with children, which do not include situations of people fleeing domestic violence situations. Read more.
Dec. 16, 2021
Small homes could make a big difference amid R.I. housing crisis
PROVIDENCE — In a pilot project, ONE Neighborhood Builders has completed five 750-square-foot ‘net-zero energy’ homes topped by solar panels in Olneyville.
The homes are topped by solar panels and were built in a South-facing arc to maximize solar production. Airtight and well insulated, the structures meet the “net-zero energy” standard, meaning they produce as much energy as they consume.
The two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom homes are being occupied by income-qualified buyers, with starting price of about $140,000. For example, two of the homes are reserved for families earning 80 percent of the area median income, meaning $52,400 for a family of two and $65,500 for a family of four. And they’re deed restricted, meaning they must be sold to other income-qualified buyers.
Sheridan Small Homes is a pilot project that aims to demonstrate “that it is economically feasible to build affordable housing to high sustainability standards and that people want to live in smaller homes,” ONE Neighborhood Builders said in a written case study of the project. Read more.
Dec. 1, 2021
R.I. approves nearly $31m for affordable housing, creating and preserving more than 600 units
The McKee administration’s Housing Resources Commission has approved nearly $31 million in funds for 23 affordable housing projects in Rhode Island. These funds will be used to produce and preserve more than 600 units of affordable housing in 13 cities and towns in the state, after it garnered approval from the state’s Housing Resources Commission.
This $31 million in funding is the largest round of awards made through the Building Homes Rhode Island (BHRI) program since the program’s inception in 2006, according to the governor’s office.
Christine Hunsinger, the chief strategy and innovation officer at Rhode Island Housing, said construction on some of the projects is already underway where additional funds were necessary to help pay for the rising costs of materials. Other projects won’t begin until sometime in 2022. Read more.
Nov. 30, 2021
Nearly 30 percent of renters in Rhode Island can’t keep up with their rent
PROVIDENCE — About 28 percent of renters in the Ocean State reported they could not keep up with their rent from Sept. 15 to Oct. 22, according to newly released data by Rhode Island Kids Count, slightly more than the one in every five renters in the US who reported that they could not pay their monthly rent during the peak of the pandemic.
And if a family is pushed out of their home or gets evicted, shelter is not always guaranteed in Rhode Island. Shelters are at capacity, and in Rhode Island people do not automatically have a right to it. As of Nov. 16, 1,013 Rhode Islanders were seeking shelter, and 45 percent of them were in families with children and 26 percent were children under the age of 18. Read more.
Nov. 29, 2021
Schools receive grants to support homeless students in Rhode Island
Eight school districts in Rhode Island will receive federal funds to support homeless students.
Governor Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced that more than $336,000 in McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) sub-grants have been distributed to the public school districts in Central Falls, Middletown, Newport, North Kingstown, Providence, Warwick, West Warwick, and Woonsocket.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the centerpiece of federal legislation related to the education of children who are unhoused in the US. It was reauthorized by Title IX in December 2015. Read more.
Nov. 24, 2021
After fighting addiction, abuse and homelessness, three women and their children find hope – and a home
Stephanie Lafleur, 37, put herself through treatment centers and social services programs, and slept in homeless shelters. When her time at one long-term treatment program was coming to an end, though, she and her son needed a place to go or else they’d end back up on the streets. She was connected to House of Hope, a non-profit, community development corporation, and moved into her own apartment at Rockville Mill last November.
The building was previously vacant and in receivership until Marathon Construction purchased and rehabbed it for housing. Marathon, a Boston-based developer identified House of Hope as a service provider and brought them into the project. Lafleur was one of the first residents to move in about a year ago, with her son, who will be 4 in March. And she’s now nearly three years clean.
The building that Lafleur and her son are living in has 12 other units filled with families who had previously been couch surfing or living in cars, shelters, or on the streets. The House of Hope program comes with wrap-around services to help the families become stable mentally and physically, offering help with transportation and support for children in school. Read more.
Nov. 22, 2021
From her view as lieutenant governor, housing policy changes are needed country-wide
PROVIDENCE — When Sabina Matos transitioned from president of the Providence City Council to lieutenant governor in early April, she promised to prioritize affordable housing.
She told the Globe at the time that while Providence had an abundance of high-end and luxury apartments, it was becoming harder for teachers, police officers, and other working class residents to stay in the capital city. Since visiting all 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island, she said it’s an issue across the state, not just in Providence.
Matos is advocating for changes on the federal level so that “unhoused” people under a wider variety of circumstances can receive government assistance, not just those who fall under HUD’s current definition of “homelessness.”
“I’m using every opportunity I have to contact any representative from any state so I can talk about this and why we need to advocate together for changes,” she said.
At the end of the month, Matos will attend the Conference of Lieutenant Governors and plans to address the issue with her colleagues. Read more.
Nov. 18, 2021
‘Locked out’: Poor Rhode Islanders face unnecessary barriers to subsidized housing, study says
PROVIDENCE — People trying to get federally subsidized housing in Rhode Island face rules around criminal records, alcohol use, tenant histories, and credit that go well beyond the guidelines laid out in federal law.
That’s according to a study by Boston University School of Social Work doctoral candidate Megan Smith and associate professor Thomas Byrne, published earlier this year in the journal Housing Policy Debate and titled “Locked Out: The Systematic Exclusion of Poor Renters From Federally Subsidized Housing.”
Smith and Byrne’s team looked at 293 federally subsidized housing providers in Rhode Island. They include project-based rental assistance developments, which are private developments that receive federal subsidies, and public housing authorities.
Only 25 percent of people eligible for subsidized housing actually get it, according to a 2017 study they cite. That’s bound up in problems with housing supply, but these restrictions don’t help. Read more.
Nov. 11, 2021
Advocate: R.I. leaders are sitting on federal funds as homelessness crisis intensifies
PROVIDENCE — Governor Daniel J. McKee and General Assembly leaders are sitting on millions in federal funds and displaying none of urgency required as the state’s homelessness crisis worsens and winter approaches, an advocate said on the Rhode Island Report podcast.
Professor Eric Hirsch, a Providence College urban sociologist who has been advocating for the state’s homeless population since 1990, said he has never seen so many people living outdoors as Rhode Island reels from the pandemic, housing costs skyrocket, and shelter waiting lists grow longer by the day.
Hirsch, who chairs the state’s Homeless Management Information System Steering Committee, called for the governor to declare a state of emergency and to get state department heads involved in finding solutions. Read more.
Nov. 3, 2021
Governor McKee pledges $5m to shelter the homeless this winter
Rhode Island is earmarking $5 million for the creation of 275 additional beds for people dealing with homelessness, Gov. Daniel McKee announced Nov. 3.
Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said the spending could go toward investments in existing shelters to provide more “food services and other support services and staffing to carry out the work.”
The money will be distributed by state’s housing offices to organizations already working with people without permanent shelter, such as Crossroads RI. Read more.
Oct. 31, 2021
Providence removes West End encampment days earlier than planned
PROVIDENCE — Days before the Nov. 1 deadline that it had imposed for people to leave, the city removed a West End homeless encampment, heading off a potential confrontation but angering service providers.
The site is partially owned by a company planning to redevelop it, and the Providence Redevelopment Agency. The part owned by the city agency will eventually be part of the development, which will include housing, renovating and repurposing a nearby mill, and parking.
At its peak, around 15 people were living in the encampment, which started sometime in late spring. After the city told people they had to leave in early June, Mayor Jorge Elorza pledged that the city would not remove the encampment until they had short-term and mid-term solutions, and progress toward a long-term solution. Read more.
Oct. 29. 2021
They aged out of the R.I. foster care system, and are struggling to find stable housing
PROVIDENCE — Youth aging out of the foster care system are especially vulnerable to experiencing homelessness and often forgotten, said Lisa Guillette, the executive director of Foster Forward, a nonprofit that helps empower those who have been impacted by foster care. Their clients are typically between 18 and 26.
About 20,000 youth 18 to 21 across the country age out of foster care annually, which means the state was not able to find an adoptive family or reunify them with their biological family.
The cost of housing, experts say, is why more than 660 people were living outdoors in September in Rhode Island. More than 3,500 children lived in foster families or other non-relative heads of household, according to the 2021 Rhode Island Kids Count Fact Book. Another 700 lived in group homes.
At Foster Forward’s East Providence headquarters, “drop ins” are offered three times a week, where kids can come by, charge their phone, get a hot meal, do laundry, and get support services such as help filling out housing and Section 8 applications. Read more.
Oct. 22, 2021
With winter closing in, R.I. homelessness crisis keeps getting worse
The homelessness crisis in Rhode Island is worse now than it has ever been, service providers say. Demand for services is up, but the supply hasn’t risen fast enough to meet the enormous challenge. At the same time, the state has $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds available for use — but no apparent urgency to use it.
Service providers like Sara Melucci, the manager of outreach programs for House of Hope, are frustrated by the pace of progress.
This comes at a time when the state has $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funding sitting in the bank. Governor Dan McKee has laid out plans for an initial down payment of 10 percent, which would include housing relief. McKee wants the money out the door by the end of the year. That’s more urgency than the General Assembly has shown, but to service providers, it’s not nearly fast enough. Read more.
Oct. 21, 2021
She took her daughter and ran from an abusive relationship. Now they’re homeless
CUMBERLAND, R.I. — Elizabeth finally left the man she spent the last 13 years with one Saturday in June. Despite her dedication, her ex’s controlling behavior got worse.
But because she’s been on Social Security Disability Insurance for the last two years, on a fixed income of $560 each month, she hasn’t had enough to get an apartment or even change the oil in her old Jeep. She gets food stamps to help put dinner on the table, but money is tight.
Elizabeth and her daughter stayed in a hotel through a temporary program paid for by the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness. But that program ended after 20 days, and they had to turn to a friend and double up in his tiny, one-bedroom apartment in Cumberland. She and her daughter live in the bedroom and he sleeps on the couch.
Vanessa Volz, executive director of Sojourner House, said even before the pandemic the organization didn’t have the capacity in its shelters and units.
The situation is similar at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or RICADV. According to the Domestic Violence Counts Report for Rhode Island, which is compiled by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, on a single day last September, there were 584 victims served in one day, looking for refuge in emergency shelters, transitional housing, counseling, legal advocacy, and children’s support groups. Read more.
Oct. 20, 2021
City orders Providence homeless encampment to vacate by Nov. 1
PROVIDENCE — Public safety officials on Oct. 20 delivered a notice to a West End homeless encampment telling them they had to vacate by Nov. 1, sparking criticism from some advocates for homeless people but relief from the councilwoman representing the area.
The notice told people who are there that possessions left on site would be removed and stored for 30 days, and that city services including trash removal and portable toilets would end after Nov. 1. The notice encouraged people to call the Coalition to End Homelessness for assistance and shelter placement. Read more.
Oct. 20, 2021
Advocates help raise money for R.I. family struggling to avoid homelessness after eviction
WARWICK, R.I. — Donna Wood and her four children, including a 15-month old with serious disabilities, were evicted from their home in West Warwick earlier this year and are currently living in a hotel in Warwick. After their struggles were documented in The Boston Globe, advocates are helping Wood get back on her feet.
They helped her set up a GoFundMe account, which has already raised more than $5,000 toward her $25,000 goal, Wood said.
Wood and her children — who are 20, 15, 11, and 1 years old— are sharing a single hotel room, which has been paid for by a program through the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness, but will be forced to leave when the program ends for her on Oct. 31.
Wood is the sole caretaker and provider for her 15-month-old son, Corey, who was diagnosed with infantile spasms, optic nerve hypoplasia, encephalomalacia, and global developmental delays. Read more.
Oct. 18, 2021
After eviction, a family struggles to avoid homelessness
WARWICK, R.I. — Just two weeks after Donna Wood gave birth to her fourth child, she hoisted herself up into the driver’s seat of her truck, wearing her red and black polo with a Honey Dew logo on it. She peered into the rearview mirror and saw his infant seat, ready for him when he could finally come home.
Her newborn son, Corey, was still in the hospital — an intrauterine stroke and a brain bleed meant he was born with severe disabilities — and Wood was exhausted, with two teenagers and an 11-year-old at home. Still, rent was due, and she had to go back to work immediately. Like always, she did what she had to do.
By late spring 2021, Corey was out of the hospital, but he required around-the-clock care. He had been diagnosed with infantile spasms, optic nerve hypoplasia, encephalomalacia, and global developmental delays. His medical equipment filled their apartment, and he often required trips to the emergency room, which meant Wood had to call out of work. Still, they were getting by — until Wood’s landlord sold the home that Wood and her children had lived in for five years. Read more.
Oct. 7, 2021
McKee unveils plan to use $113m of Rhode Island’s ARPA funds
PROVIDENCE — Governor Dan McKee unveiled plans Oct. 7 to spend 10 percent of Rhode Island’s $1.13 billion in American Rescue Plan by investing in small businesses, child care, and housing. His budget amendment, he said, was a “down payment” on Rhode Island’s economic comeback.
His plan included approximately $32 million to go towards Rhode Island’s small businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
McKee’s plan invests $15 million to incentivize the development and renovation of affordable housing. It would be targeted at assisting individuals with an income below 80 percent of area median income, according to McKee’s budget. And $12 million would go toward investing in property acquisition grants that would be administered by Rhode Island Housing.
About $1.5 million would invest in housing stability and mental health services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness and $500,000 would go toward temporary contract staffing support for the Office of Housing and Community Development. McKee also proposed that $500,000 to be allocated toward broadband coordination. Read more.
Sept. 23, 2021
Advocates call on R.I. to use $500m of federal dollars on housing
A group of Rhode Island housing organizations are calling on the state to use nearly half of its federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act to fix the state’s housing crisis.
In a newly published report, advocates requested the use $500 million of the state’s $1.1 billion ARPA funds to be allocated to affordable housing. The advocates called for $350 million to go toward producing, protecting, and preserving affordable homes statewide; $60 million to go toward housing access and stability statewide; and $90 million to support municipalities and the state in creating and preserving “safe and healthy homes.”
The advocates called for clear results to be produced by 2030, including at least 1,800 new deed-restricted homes for low-income households and to decrease the homeownership rate disparity between BIPOC communities and white communities. Read more.
June 11, 2021
Elorza visits homeless encampment in Providence, pledges compassionate solution
PROVIDENCE — Mayor Jorge Elorza on June 11 visited the encampment on Wilson Street in the city’s west end and pledged to come up with a compassionate solution to a difficult problem.
Police had handed out notices June 9 that told people they had to leave within 48 hours or be subject to civil or criminal penalties. Two days later, though, Elorza rejected the notion that the city would call in the cops or bring in bulldozers.
About 15 people are at the encampment, which has prompted complaints from neighbors — but support from them, too.
Outreach workers say there are no other options in Rhode Island’s temporary or long-term shelter system right now. There are more than 600 people on shelter waiting lists right now. Homelessness has increased in the last year, with more people living outside, in cars and in other places not fit for human habitation. Read more.
June 10, 2021
Providence orders homeless people to leave encampment in the West End
PROVIDENCE — City officials are attempting to oust about 15 people living in tents on a vacant lot in the West End, with police giving them 48 hours to clear out or face civil and criminal prosecution.
Benjamin N. Smith, a spokesman for Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, said, “The current situation at the encampment along Wilson Street is unsafe for the people living there. The city is working with social service providers to offer them safe, stable shelter and additional resources.”
House of Hope executive director Laura Jaworski said busting up encampments is counterproductive, sapping the energy of service providers without doing anything to address the root causes. “It sets us back,” she said. “It’s a short-sighted win.” Read more.
May 19, 2021
Sojourner House is getting into the housing business in Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE — Finding housing for survivors of abuse was a struggle before the pandemic hit.
There was already so much demand that Sojourner House had stopped keeping a waiting list for the 126 apartments it leases for people who’ve escaped domestic violence, sexual abuse, or trafficking.
Vanessa Volz, executive director of Sojourner House, said the nonprofit got more desperate calls from people seeking help escaping to a safe place — and those who had places to live were struggling to keep them.
The agency has three emergency shelters, with 23 beds, intended to help people in the immediacy of leaving an abusive situation. They can end up staying for months, because there is nowhere else for them to go, Volz said.
Sojourner House is seeking to buy its own properties for long-term homes for victims, by applying for funds in the American Rescue Plan and US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The board of directors recently approved of Sojourner House becoming a full-scale housing agency and developer, and have all of its services integrated. Read more.
May 19, 2021
Rhode Island’s housing market is on fire
There are only five ZIP codes (out of 74) in the entire state where it would take two or months months to sell off the inventory of homes available, according to new data from the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. A normal market would be between four and six months of inventory, which means we’re in an extreme seller’s market.
The median sales price for single-family Rhode Island homes in April was at an all-time high of $349,000, and the median price on multi-family homes was $355,000.
If you are house hunting, here’s a look at the five communities with the most homes available — that is, where it might take more than two months to sell the inventory — as of May 10. Read more.
April 29, 2021
‘We have clearly reached a crisis’: House Speaker Shekarchi makes housing his priority
PROVIDENCE — New House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi is putting the power of his position behind a new priority: housing.
Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, has introduced a package of seven housing bills, and some are starting to become law.
On April 19, Governor Daniel J. McKee signed a bill into law prohibiting landlords from refusing to rent to people with government housing vouchers. Other bills would create a high-level “housing czar” position within state government and allow cities and towns to count “tiny homes” as affordable housing.
In an interview, Shekarchi said housing isn’t just his priority; he said many legislators are focused on this issue because Rhode Island’s housing situation is so dire. Read more.
April 14, 2021
Sabina Matos to focus on increasing affordable housing in Rhode Island
After being sworn in at the State House on April 14, Sabina Matos said she plans to make housing a statewide priority.
“One of the challenges that we have in Providence is that you can find housing for the high end, but if we want our teachers and police officers to live in the city, we need have housing available to them,” she said.
Matos, 47, who was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States in 1994. She stepped down as president of the Providence City Council before being sworn in as Rhode Island’s 70th lieutenant governor — the first person of color to hold that position. Read more.
Feb. 25, 2021
R.I. wants to borrow $65m for affordable housing. Advocates say it’s a start, but not a solution
PROVIDENCE — On March 2, voters around Rhode Island will go to the polls to vote in a special election to approve a few different state borrowing proposals. One of the questions will ask voters if they want the state to borrow $65 million for affordable housing and community development. The money would fund things like low-income rental developments, new homes to sell to working-class people, and renovations for abandoned properties.
These questions usually pass without much fuss. There have been three affordable housing ballot questions since 2006, all of them OK’ed by Rhode Island voters. This one will be the biggest yet by dollar amount after Governor Gina Raimondo upped the amount of the request in the midst of the pandemic. Read more.
Jan. 26, 2021
Developer buys former Memorial Hospital property in Pawtucket, plans housing for R.I. veterans
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Almost two years after a purchase-and-sale agreement was signed for the former Memorial Hospital property, Lockwood Development Partners announced Jan. 26 that it has closed a deal with Care New England Health System.
Lockwood, a New York City developer, confirmed it’s collaborating with Veteran Services USA to transform the vacant site into a housing complex for the state’s aging veterans.
The plan for the Brewster Street site includes a 390,000-square-foot campus with more than 200 apartments prioritized for senior veterans, an adult day health care facility for therapy and other social services, a career training and education program for new veterans reskilling or upskilling for the civilian workforce, as well as medical and lab space to address the veterans’ and surrounding community’s health needs.
The project is expected to cost $70 million and create up to 500 jobs during construction and 60 permanent jobs, according to Mayor Donald R. Grebien’s office. Read more.
Alexa Gagosz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.