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.
“My public safety officials showed statistics and data on increased calls for service at Motel Six since the Fall and last year when the Nylo Hotel was being used as a shelter,” he wrote in a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday. “Our concern is that our resources and manning are stretched thin already and more calls could lead to having additional personnel working on some shifts or days which would be very expensive for the city but necessary for public safety.”
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.
“We asked the agency about onsite staff, security, and other aid that the residents would be provided,” wrote Picozzi, who did not say how the Housing Department responded. The mayor did not immediately respond to calls from the Globe.
In a separate meeting on Tuesday, Governor Daniel McKee met with Picozzi and the Warwick police and fire departments where the city “showed him our data and shared our concerns.”
“I said that this could end up being very expensive for the city and he agreed and was very receptive to try to work out some type of reimbursement arrangement,” said Picozzi.
In a statement sent to the Globe on Wednesday evening, Pryor said this new shelter represents “one of the steps the Housing Department and our partners are taking to address homelessness in Rhode Island.”
“We thank the City of Warwick for continuing to work with us constructively and thoughtfully,” said Pryor. Picozzi wrote that he was told that the Housing Department could start moving people in “this week.”
Despite concerns from Providence neighbors and city officials that included Mayor Brett Smiley’s office, the state’s Housing Department decided to extend operations at the Cranston Street Armory for an additional two weeks in late April. It was the second time the facility’s operations had been extended since opening in mid-December; it was originally slated to close by April 15, but was extended to April 30.
The armory, which originally opened as an around-the-clock “warming center” for up to 50 people eventually grew and has often served more than 100 people per day. The facility was funded by the state, but was staffed by nonprofit homeless service provider Amos House and the Rhode Island National Guard.
Smiley’s office previously told the Globe that more than 40 percent of all emergency calls in Providence were for those being served at the armory.
During a Continuum of Care board meeting on May 4, Amos House executive director Eileen Hayes said the armory has “saved hundreds of lives.” If the state does not identify an alternative shelter solution for these homeless individuals, “we will be putting 100 people out on the streets” come May 15.
Michael Tondra, the director for community planning and funding at the state’s Housing Department, had requested the Continuum of Care board approve temporary adjustments to the Coordinated Entry System, or CES. The CES is a calling system designed to ensure people experiencing housing insecurity have “fair and equal access” to shelter. Those who are in the system can be quickly identified, assessed for, referred, and connecting to housing and shelter spaces based on their needs.
Tondra asked the board to allow those in the armory to have priority access to over “new shelter capacity” that would be soon opening. Hayes, who was sitting in the crowd of providers and advocates during the meeting, identified the Motel 6 site as a possible shelter option.
Joseph Lindstrom, a spokesman for the housing department, told the Globe that 50 rooms will first open for individuals and another five will be reserved for couples.
“OpenDoors has indicated they might reevaluate that moving forward,” he said.
Hayes said putting individuals, particularly those suffering from substance abuse, in a hotel is not ideal but “necessary” when the state lacks shelter beds.
“We can’t monitor people behind a closed door,” said Hayes, who said 132 people were served at the armory the night before. “But if we send 100 people back on the streets that we’ve cared for 24/7, we’re setting ourselves up for disaster.”
This article has been updated to include additional information from the state department of housing.
Alexa Gagosz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.