Governor McKee grilled on State House encampment eviction

Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee was in Pawtucket at noon today. Uprise RI and other news outlets were on hand to ask about his administration’s efforts to evict a homeless encampment from State House grounds.

Rhode Island News: Governor McKee grilled on State House encampment eviction

December 8, 2022, 2:40 pm

By Steve Ahlquist

Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee was in Pawtucket at noon today. Uprise RI and other news outlets were on hand to ask about his administration’s efforts to evict a homeless encampment from State House grounds.

Two biggest takeaways?

The Governor felt that the eviction is going “as well as an be expected” and the Governor disputes the number of homeless encampments and unhoused people in the state that is being given to him by providers.

The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness estimates that there are 80+ encampments across the state and that over 500 people are sleeping unhoused, including families with children, every night.

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

The full press conference is transcribed after the video:

"As well as can be expected." Governor McKee on evicting a homeless encampment from RI State House

Governor McKee: Well, I think it’s going as well as we expected. We’ve got a serious issue that a few hundred people are experiencing right now. We’ve been actively creating shelter for them as we have committed to. The people there are being given the opportunity to have a warm shelter. Our staff, not only with the providers, is working there. We’ve allocated our chiefs of staffs and Matt [Sheaff] here, he heads up our communications to be out there communicating with people. So I think it’s going well as can be expected, but it’s a serious issue that we’re paying attention to.

Press: How many have been moved so far and where they being taken?

Governor McKee: Yesterday, when we did the inventory in the morning, about 17 people were there. That’s what I was told. This morning there were about six people that were there. I know that we [re]located about seven people yesterday. I think that was the number this morning. We [re]located a couple of other people as well. The goal is to provide the opportunity for those who want a warm shelter during this time of the year to have it and anyone that is looking for that, we’re going to make sure that that happens. That’s the reason that shortly, we’ll be opening up a warming station in Providence. We’re talking to the mayor right now about doing something very similar in Pawtucket. So we’re going to make sure that there’s more beds than are needed.

And I think that we’re headed in that direction. Unfortunately, we had a maintenance malfunction at the hospital here in Pawtucket that had to vacate that hospital and relocate, through Amos House, dozens of people, which has happened. But also we were going to increase that space there by 70-80 beds. So we’re setting up these warming stations to offset the that number. We’re working with the providers to establish 350+ new shelter beds right now. And that’s really strong work by those people who are doing the work.

Press: Some people are bound and determined to stay at the State House. You have the capital police and the state police prepared to move in and evict them forcibly.

Governor McKee: Yeah. So right now, we’re going to give everybody that wants to have housing the opportunity to have shelter, to have house shelter, and then we’ll deal with that. Our efforts are to provide that housing for each and every individual that wants it.

Press: If evicted, that goes on their record. Do you think that will get in the way of them finding housing later and is your office prepared to help with that, wiping that off their record?

Governor McKee: We’re going to continue to help hose who want housing/shelter during this timeframe. And we have other efforts that are ongoing as well.

Press: So those evictions won’t be wiped from their record?

Governor McKee: I don’t know the answer to that but we’re not going to penalize people who are homeless right now.

Uprise RI: Where are the beds coming from? Because they’re not being done through CES, which is the Coordinated Entry System, which is the way we get people beds. It seems like Housing Secretary Josh Saal is making calls off the grid to make these beds available, but that also pushes people who have been waiting on the list for a long time down the list again. We’re prioritizing people at the State House over the 80 other encampments around the state, and 500 people who are homeless.

Governor McKee: Well first of all, identify the 80 encampments so I can go visit them and we’ll do the same thing [we’re doing at the State House].

Uprise RI: I know the advocates have that list.

Governor McKee: They don’t. We can’t get physical locations. The 80 number, I don’t believe is accurate. This misinformation is clouding the effort to actually do the work that we’re trying to do. If there’s 80 encampments let us know and we will visit them and we’ll have the same conversation we’re having with the people outside the State House.

Uprise RI: Are you also disputing the 500 number that Caitlin Frumerie came up with yesterday when she talked about the 500 people who were living on the street unsheltered?

Governor McKee: I’m not disputing any numbers. All I can tell you is that there’s not really clear data that can support the numbers.

Uprise RI: Because she said 80 plus encampments yesterday.

Governor McKee: Then call her, give us the list of where the 80 encampments are. We will go there and do the same thing we’re doing at the State House.

Press: What’s the transportation available between these shelters and daytime housing?

Governor McKee: That’s a question for the providers. The warming station that we’re opening up in at the the Armory is going to be 24/7 with services there. We’re going to continue to expand the number until we have more shelter than we need so that we actually can get to the work, in terms of housing, that we want to get to.

Press: Have any vendors responded to managing the Armory yet? As of yesterday, no vendors had responded.

Matthew Sheaff: The deadline has been extended I can get that to you.

Governor McKee: We’re very optimistic that that’s going to happen. I was talking to the Rhode Island Foundation today as well, that’s going to be very supportive. There’s many, many people working on this issue. And we’re going to continue.

Press: You would go visit personally, if there were 80 places?

Governor McKee: Give me a list of the 80 places and I will make sure our people are there.