As recently covered on the front page of the Providence Journal, in the Providence Business News, and on NBC 10, there are currently 282 more homeless individuals in Rhode Island than there are shelter beds to accommodate them. In other words, 282 people will be without a place to sleep this winter – many of whom will be forced to sleep outside. With the cold weather approaching, advocates fear that without a comprehensive statewide plan, those who are homeless will be at serious risk once the freezing temperatures hit our state.
Dr. Eric Hirsch, Professor at Providence College and Chair of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Committee, believes that 282 is actually underestimating the problem as the count conducted to reach the number was unable to capture all those who are unsheltered around the state. The latest homeless numbers indicate that of those who experienced homelessness in 2010: 53% experienced homelessness for the first time, 40% were families, and 15% were 5 years old or younger.
Hirsch estimates that a total of 4,340 Rhode Islanders will experience homelessness by the end of the year – a disturbing increase from the 3,371 who experienced homelessness in 2009. These trends alarm advocates who have been working diligently to avoid a repeat of two winters ago when Tent Cities were erected throughout the City of Providence in response to a shortage of emergency shelter beds. The state was never able to adequately address the needs of the homeless living in the Tent Cities and advocates worry that with a shortage of beds already in place, the worst is yet to come.
Advocates are calling on the State of Rhode Island, government leaders, the business community, and other community leaders to step forward and help avert this crisis.
Concerned? Tell your community leaders. Learn how here (includes an easy online form that should take you 30 seconds).