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R.I. plans to open 24/7 warming station for homeless people in Cranston Street Armory

The state expects to open the warming station as soon as possible, and keep it open through April 15, according to Governor McKee’s office.

Fresh snow blankets Dexter Field as the Cranston Street Armory stands in the background Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Providence, R.I.David Goldman/Associated Press

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.

Sheaff confirmed that homeless individuals could potentially sleep inside the armory.

“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 on Wednesday.


The state expects to begin operating it as soon as possible, said Sheaff, and keep it open through April 15. The plan is a result of a cross-agency partnership with the governor’s office, the state department of housing, the department of administration, the department of business regulation, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and others.

It’s unclear if the armory will be serviced and staffed by state agencies or partnered nonprofit organizations. However, the state plans on sending a letter of intent to providers to “further engage them on wraparound services for the site.”

The armory is a historic building located in the Broadway-Armory Historic District of Providence. The state assumed ownership over the property in the mid-1990s. After years of neglect, Rhode Island voters rejected a $12 million bond that would have been used to restore and reuse the building in 2004. The property was listed for sale from 2015 to 2017.

However, the state has formed a committee within the Department of Administration to identify new uses. Yet it’s unclear what structural issues — if any — may remain in the building.


On Wednesday, David Patten, the director of the Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance within the state’s administration department, sent a letter to the to the Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review. In the letter, which was obtained by the Globe, Patten requested an expedited hearing for the use of the armory as a warming station.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.