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RI HOMELESSNESS

Number of Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness during annual winter count up 15 percent over last year

The increase, according to new data from the state’s latest Point-in-Time count, occurred despite state investments in shelter beds, hotel stays for families, and warming centers

Kathleen Combs, a volunteer with the Point-in-Time count, spoke to a person at a warming center at Second First Church in Rockford, Ill., Jan. 23, 2023. The annual tally of those who live outside or in homeless shelters takes place in every corner of the country through the last 10 days of January, and over the past dozen years has found 550,000 to 650,000 people experiencing homelessness.JAMIE KELTER DAVIS/NYT

PROVIDENCE — The overwhelming majority of Rhode Islanders who held an unused rapid rehousing voucher were forced to continue staying in emergency homeless shelters — and outside — during the coldest months this winter. Due to the extreme lack of housing in Rhode Island, there weren’t any units available for them to move into.

Approximately 1,810 people were experiencing homelessness on the night of Jan. 25, according to new data from the state’s latest Point-in-Time count, a mandated annual count of all people experiencing homelessness in America. That’s an increase of 15 percent compared with 2022.

Of those individuals, 202 people from 120 different households were holding Rapid Rehousing vouchers. At the time of the count, 137 people were staying in emergency shelters and six people were sleeping outside.

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Rhode Island’s Rapid Rehousing program, which is meant to get people out of homelessness as quickly as possible or avoid it altogether, offers financial assistance and services to individuals and families.

Here’s what else you should know about the state’s latest Point-in-Time count.

Homeless individuals who can’t access shelter increased by 370 percent this year.

The number of Rhode Islanders who slept outside during the coldest months of the year this winter increased by 370 percent compared with 2019. This is despite the state increasing the number of shelter beds over the winter, paying for homeless families with children to stay in hotels, and opening around-the-clock “warming centers” like the Cranston Street Armory.

Rhode Island Housing has earmarked millions for much-needed housing projects. But most of those projects are to create new units and won’t be ready for at least two years.

Caitlin Frumerie, the executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness, said there has been “an extreme rise of unsheltered homelessness out of the scale of anything that we have seen.”

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“We must begin planning for next winter,” Frumerie said. “[It’s] only months away.”

Most homeless individuals this winter were newly unhoused

Of the 1,810 who were identified in shelters and sleeping outside on the night of Jan. 25, approximately 629 people were chronically homeless. This means that nearly 65 percent of the individuals who were identified that night had only recently found themselves homeless in Rhode Island.

More children in Rhode Island are experiencing homelessness

On Jan. 25, investigators found that 595 people experiencing homelessness were in families, which includes children. There was also one individual identified who was alone and between the ages of 13 and 17 years old. Approximately 81 individuals who were identified as homeless were “young adults,” which means they are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.