Government

Governor McKee disputes the reality of homelessness in RI; Here are the facts

The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness estimates that there are 80+ encampments across the state and that around 385 people are sleeping unhoused, including families with children, every night. Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee, who is actively seeking to evict an encampment on the State House plaza, disputed these numbers on Thursday.

December 9, 2022, 9:00 am

By Steve Ahlquist

The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness estimates that there are 80+ encampments across the state and that around 385 people are sleeping unhoused, including families with children, every night. Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee, who is actively seeking to evict an encampment on the State House plaza, disputed these numbers on Thursday.

“The 80 number, I don’t believe is accurate,” said the Governor, who later, and contradictorily said, “I’m not disputing any numbers.”

The Governor added that there is no list of the 80+ encampments.

“I know the advocates have that list,” said Uprise RI.

“They don’t,” said Governor McKee, only it turns out they do, and that information was provided to the State this Fall.

Uprise RI contacted the Coalition’s Communications and Development Manager Juan Espinoza for a comment.

“The Coalition has information on encampments throughout the state, but given the nature of homelessness, this information changes regularly,” wrote Espinoza. “This Fall, we estimated approximately 82 encampments and prepared the visual below, which was shared with the Department of Housing at the time.”

“For privacy and safety reasons, we are not sharing exact locations of encampments,” continued Espinoza, “however if sufficient resources were available to shelter or house everyone in these locations, the Coordinated Entry System (CES) would be able to effectively deploy these resources.”

The information in this chart is based on street outreach worker data and is not data derived from the homeless management information system (RIHMIS). 

The coordinated entry system is a “nationally recognized process developed to ensure that all people experiencing a housing crisis have fair and equal access and are quickly identified, assessed for, referred, and connected to housing and assistance based on their strengths and needs.” The system is also designed to help Rhode Island satisfy federal HUD regulations.

As for the number of people sleeping unhoused in the state, that number has fallen from 502 in early November to an estimated 385 in early December.

“In terms of the current unsheltered number, we are glad to report that our two week unsheltered number has reduced, as you can see below,” said Espinoza. “This is likely a result of shelter beds coming online, however there still remains a huge gap of resources for those outdoors.

“This unsheltered number is calculated by counting persons who report they are living outside and have either interacted with CES or a street outreach worker in the last two weeks.”

“It would be more prudent for the Governor’s office to engage in in-depth planning to add additional shelter beds to address the 385 Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness than to attempt to vacate an encampment,” wrote Espinoza. “There are not enough shelter beds available for the members of the encampment, much less the 385 unsheltered Rhode Islanders.”