Providence orders homeless people to leave their camp in the West End

Benjamin N. Smith, spokesperson for the mayor of Providence, Jorge O. Elorza, said: “The current situation at the camp along Wilson Street is dangerous for the people who live there. The city is working with social service providers to provide them with safe and stable shelter and additional resources. “

But Almonte said, “Everyone in the community will tell you that they feel safe here.” She said, “We invite anyone to come and get to know the people who stay here. They are amazing people and their stories deserve to be as well.

She said city police used bolt cutters to get through a gate and send notices to people living on the vacant lot on Wednesday.

Diumila “Matilda” Almonte holds up a notice from Providence officials telling people to vacate the vacant land in the city’s West End within 48 hours.Edward Fitzpatrick

“To whom it may concern”, indicates the notice. “You are hereby notified that you must vacate the property within the next 48 hours. Failure to do so will result in consequences which may include civil and criminal prosecution. We strongly encourage you to connect with the following service providers.

The notice, signed by Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré, listed two contacts at the House of Hope Community Development Corporation.

But advocates say shelters are overflowing and housing is expensive and scarce.

“The system is down,” said Eric Hirsch, professor of sociology at Providence College. “Social service agencies don’t have the resources to help them.

As of Wednesday, the waiting list for individual or family shelters had reached 657 people and 212 people were staying in a state-funded hotel for homeless people, Hirsch said. “So we can’t put them in shelters,” he said.

House of Hope executive director Laura Jaworski said dismantling the settlements was counterproductive, sapping the energy of service providers while doing nothing to tackle the root causes. “It makes us go backwards,” she said. “It’s a short sighted victory.

Sara Melucci, Outreach Program Manager for House of Hope, said: “It’s not for lack of effort or commitment or anything, it’s really the result of lack of investment. long term in affordable housing and short term solutions. “

The paved lot, surrounded by a chain link fence and trees, is owned by Abby Roads Properties LLC. But the Providence redevelopment agency decided to take the property and other nearby vacant plots by prominent estate to make way for new artist studios and a covered farmer’s market, according to city officials.

Almonte, 31, said she and her husband were the first to live on the land about two weeks ago, and now others have set up tents next to theirs. She said she was left homeless after someone burned down her campervan.

Almonte said the lot was littered with broken glass and car parts when they arrived. But they cleaned it up and made a garden using wooden pallets and an abandoned truck bed to grow lettuce, tomatoes, oregano, and flowers.

An old truck bed now serves as a bed for vegetable plants on an abandoned lot on Wilson and Fuller streets in Providence.
An old truck bed now serves as a bed for vegetable plants on an abandoned lot on Wilson and Fuller streets in Providence.Edward Fitzpatrick

They created a makeshift shower with paddles and a five gallon bucket with holes in the bottom. And supporters donated water, food and even a small pot that now has signs stuck to “100s In The Streets.” Our government’s need for action ”and“ Shame. Give us safe lots.

Almonte said she would like to host Narcotics Anonymous meetings at the site and invite someone to do yoga with those who live there.

After being homeless intermittently since the age of 18, Almonte said: “This is the community that I have felt the most, apart from the community that I have created between myself, my husband and my children. . “

She said she understood why some neighbors opposed the encampment, but said, “We are contributing to the community. We keep things as clean as possible. Anyone who says this place is dangerous is just not giving us the chance to get to know each other.

Almonte said some have raised the possibility of getting vouchers to pay for hotel rooms. “But we don’t want a three-day fix because we’re going to end up doing the same thing,” she said. If no permanent solution is found, she says, “I’m holding on. “

Dr Luis Daniel Muñoz, a member of the state’s Equity Council and candidate for governor in 2022, attended the press conference, saying that although some have criticized the presence of a port-a- pot, it will improve public health and make the conditions as humane as possible under the circumstances. He said homeless people in California ended up with hepatitis because of the unsanitary conditions there.

A port-a-pot stands on a wasteland on Wilson and Fuller streets in Providence.
A port-a-pot stands on a wasteland on Wilson and Fuller streets in Providence.Edward Fitzpatrick

Muñoz said he and State Senator Tiara Mack, a Democrat from Providence, were helping the National Guard organize a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the site on Sunday. And a community barbecue is planned in nearby Fuller Street Park on Sunday lunchtime.

“Based on the data, there is no reason the city and state cannot solve the roaming challenge in Rhode Island,” Muñoz said. “The numbers are low in Rhode Island – less than 1,000 people.”

Hirsch said 390 people lived outside of Rhode Island in May. Those numbers are higher in part because the state has reduced the number of people staying in shelters during the pandemic, he said. Others were afraid to enter shelters because of COVID-19, and others lost their jobs or their homes because of the pandemic, he said.

Gregory Waksmulski, a member of the Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights advocacy committee, urged people to contact Gov. Daniel J. McKee and ask him to give property tax relief to homeowners who would provide a place for people to stay in cars, RVs, or tents with easy access to services.

And he urged people to contact Elorza, saying, “Tell him we don’t like the state crackdown. We are not going to put up with it. This is not a good look.

Waksmulski said Almonte viewed abandoned land littered with old car parts and broken glass as a place for people to find shelter and grow food.

“She said there were a lot of people sleeping in the cemetery, that there were a lot of people sleeping under the viaduct,” he said. “These people have been kicked out of the shelters, these people have nowhere to go, what can we do? Can we build a garden for these people to sleep in? So that’s what Mathilde did. She had this vision.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @FitzProv. Brian Amaral can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @ bamaral44.

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