The homeless rights community called for “a broader response to the attack on a woman who was preparing to sleep outside in downtown Providence on January 2, 2019.” As reported by the Providence Journal, Eileen Boarman was attacked with a knife sometime around 1am. The injury she sustained required surgery, and she will need ongoing rehabilitation to regain the full use of her hand. A man has been arrested and charged in connection with the crime.

Megan Smith

“We’re here today to hear from Eileen Boarman, who was attacked on this spot on January 2 as she was preparing to sleep outside,” said Megan Smith, facilitator of the Rhode Island Bill of Rights Defense Committee, which works to combat the criminalization of homelessness and to advocate with and for people dealing with homelessness. “The knife assault upon her is doubt a horrible act, and the person who committed the crime should be held accountable for it. By Rhode Island statutory definition, it is a hate crime. It is a crime motivated by bigotry or bias against a person who is homeless, or perceived to be homeless.

“From what we hear from people living on the streets or in shelters, these crimes happen all too frequently despite the fact that no instances have been recorded with the State Police. It is also important to realize how the attack was enabled by how we structure our systems of care and the culture in which we live.”

“It is a housing issue,” said Eileen Boarman. “There are very many incidents and experiences that were not good that I had in shelters from the time I became homeless that made me feel that the only safe place for me to be is on the street… I survived for four years out on the street…”

“…until this attack occurred, which made it even unsafe for me to sleep on the street.”

Eileen Boarman explains her attack and circumstances more fully in a conversation with reporters here:

Elizabeth LeBlanc’s story:


“I am a mother of two boys. I recently lost my husband to cancer,” said Elizabeth LeBlanc, who has also experienced homelessness with her two children. “We were evicted from our apartment in Providence and it was a very sudden eviction. We were given like, three days to move out…

“We went to Crossroads and we were told there’s a new system where they don’t just place people who show up at the door. They have to call a number. So a friend thankfully offered her couch to us while we were waiting on the homeless shelter. It took from August to November for us to find shelter. In that time we were almost living on the streets.

“With two children on the streets, Rhode Island law would have taken my children away…”

“We live in a country without a functioning social safety net,” said Megan Smith. “There is an absolute scarcity of needed resources, housing first among them. Furthermore, the bureaucracies we’ve created to help people access these resources all too often work against them doing so…

“Affordable housing waiting lists are months, if not years long,” continued Smith. “Applicants face multiple barriers, including confusing paperwork, onerous documentation requirements, and denials on the basis of criminal/legal history, landlord history or lack thereof, and credit history.”

Joseph Judge is a Providence resident who has faced homelessness

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Suzanne Arena
Suzanne Arena

Advocates like Megan Smith keep those most under represented to have a voice. These are such important incidents that happen and we need to keep connected.

So many of us are just one house fire away from the tragedy of being homeless.