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Advocates and legislators rally for end to evictions and utility shutoffs at State House

“Lawmakers, legislators,” said Reverend Chontell Washington, “we know that you have done as much as you can for bars, restaurants small businesses and major corporations – and we need your help now… so that people are not going to worry about being out there on the streets.”

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Despite the rain, DARE‘s Tenants and Homeowners Association took to the Rhode Island State House on Saturday with a simple message: We need an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium has been extended three times already but with loopholes that allow some evictions and foreclosures to continue. “Our city needs to be protected during this pandemic,” said Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE) organizer and emcee Terri Wright. “Evictions should stop. Also, no utility shutoffs throughout the duration of this pandemic.”

Sheila Robertson

The most moving testimony of the rally came from Providence resident Shiela Robertson, who is currently facing eviction. She’s moved 15 times over the last few years, as landlords evicted her.

“I’ve lived in 15 different neighborhoods. I recently was homeless. I ended up at Crossroads,” said Robertson. “Now I live on Federal Hill.” The house she lives in was recently sold, and her new landlords told her to be out by April 1.

“I let my landlord know I am not going back to the shelters,” said Robertson. “You’re not going to put me out on the street like I’m trash. I’m a human being.”

Because of the rain a planned march through Providence did not happen, but there was a speaker program broadcast over Facebook. The first speaker was Reverend Chontell Washington, interim executive minister for the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, who noted that, “The homelessness issue… is going to increase exponentially if we do not stop evictions from happing. The eviction moratorium ends on March 31st, and we need some action beyond that.

“Lawmakers, legislators,” continued Reverend Washington, “we know that you have done… as much as you can for bars, and for restaurants and for small businesses, and for major corporations – and we need your help now… so that people are not going to worry about being out there on the streets.”

Chontell Washington

“We all know that shelter and utilities are the basic necessities of every day life, and as long as we continue to experience this global pandemic alongside economic insecurity, no one should be evicted from their homes,” said State Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence). Morales has championed his bill, H5442, which would “impose a moratorium on the termination of utility services throughout a limited period of any emergency declared by the governor, with special provisions related to emergencies related to health epidemics.


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“Let’s be clear,” continued Morales, “there are no bootstraps to pull yourself up by, and as a government institution, it would be shameful if we kicked people while they are already down. So, while public policies don’t always emphasize empathy, we are gathered here today to demand it.”

David Morales

Senator Tiara Mack (Democrat, District 6, Providence) joined the rally online, saying, “COVID-19 has highlighted what many Rhode Islanders have felt for years – Our systems do not work for the working class or the working poor… We should be making sure that housing – quality and affordable housing – will be available to every single person who lives in our state.”

Senator Mack has co-sponsored S0183, a bill from Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown) that would “impose a moratorium on non-essential evictions and mortgage foreclosures during a state of emergency declared by the governor relating to residential property and would establish an eviction diversion program to resolve landlord-tenant eviction disputes.” Senator Euer was unable to attend the rally.

“When issues arise at a very difficult time, like Covid, we know who will be affected – The poor people. The people who don’t have access to good jobs. The people who depend on limited incomes,” said State Representative Grace Diaz (Democrat, District 11, Providence).

Diaz has proposed H5309 which would “impose a moratorium on non-essential evictions and mortgage foreclosures during a state of emergency declared by the governor relating to residential property and would establish an eviction diversion program to resolve landlord-tenant eviction disputes.”

You can watch the full video here:

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

atomicsteve@gmail.com