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John Joyce; advocated for homeless in R.I.

PROVIDENCE — John J. Joyce III, a homeless advocate and outreach worker who helped write the ‘‘Homeless Bill of Rights’’ enacted in Rhode Island last year, has died. He was 50.

Jim Ryczek, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, said Mr. Joyce died at home in Providence on Thursday after a battle with cancer.

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The Providence native was codirector of the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project, a grass-roots organization, and was formerly homeless himself. In 2009, he was among those who organized a high-profile tent city in Providence known as Camp Runamuck to draw attention to the problem of homelessness.

Last year, he successfully helped push the passage of a homeless bill of rights that prevents governments, health care workers, employers, and others from treating homeless people unfairly because of their housing status.

On the day the General Assembly approved it in June, Mr. Joyce said he wished that the legislation wasn’t necessary.

‘‘I wish in this day and age that hatred and bigotry didn’t happen, but they do,’’ he said. ‘‘This is something that happens on a daily basis.’’

National homeless advocates called the law the first of its kind in the nation. He and his organization were among those recognized by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty for their work on the bill.

Mr. Joyce previously was an outreach worker for a program at the Providence Center that serves the chronically homeless. He was known for saying what he meant — no matter how brusque it sounded — and tended to end his conversations with the same two words: ‘‘Be safe.’’

‘‘There aren’t many people like John,’’ Ryczek said.

A memorial service will be held Feb. 21 at Beneficent Congregational Church in Providence.

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