Kim and Akim lived in tent in Woonsocket, until home was bulldozed by the CityIn our most recent interview with a former member of the Woonsocket encampment, we discovered that the shocking cruelty in Woonsocket continues, and now unhoused people are reporting that members of the Woonsocket Police have been told to allow no one to pitch any tents anywhere in Woonsocket on public property. Unhoused people are being told to leave Woonsocket entirely.
Published on January 21, 2023
By Steve Ahlquist
In December Uprise RI went to Woonsocket to talk to the people there suffering from homeless. There I met Kim and Akin, a couple living in a tent. For that story, I changed their names, with permission, to Brianna and Adam. For this story, they have allowed me to use their actual names.
Kim and Akim are a couple living unsheltered in Woonsocket. Akim has a job, and Kim has medical issues. They were living in the encampment that Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt ordered bulldozed on January 4th. Uprise RI previously interviewed another couple affected by this bulldozing, Pamela and Ray, and Jeremy who lives on his own. Uprise RI covered the reactions of advocates speaking to the Woonsocket City Council here, and transcribed an interview Mayor Baldelli-Hunt did on conservativerlocal radio here.
As previous reporting showed, the Baldelli-Hunt Administration has not been honest when talking about their policies regarding homelessness in the City. Contrary to public statements, the encampment was not transient. There was not an out of control problem with needles on the ground. The people in that encampment were simply trying to survive.
The takeaway from this new interview? The shocking cruelty in Woonsocket continues, and now unhoused people are reporting that members of the Woonsocket Police have been told to allow no one to pitch any tents in Woonsocket on public property. Unhoused people are being told to leave Woonsocket and go to Providence or Cranston.
Here’s the interview:
Uprise RI: Could you retell your story? You were sick the day the the bulldozing occurred?
Kim: I was sick Because I had some medical issues and I wasn’t around and they bulldozed our tent and everything was gone.
Uprise RI: This tent was where you and your fiance were staying?
Kim: Yes, we were there with Pamela and Ray and all of them.
Uprise RI: I talked to Pamela just recently.
Kim: Yeah. I was just talking to her too and she said you might be able to help us figure something out. It’s not fair.
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Uprise RI: At the very least I can get this story out for people to read. Can you at least get a new tent?
Kim: We have nowhere to put it because we can’t put it up anywhere. The cops are saying, that the mayor’s having all the tents taken down no matter where you go unless you know someone with private property.
Uprise RI: Where did you and Akim sleep last night?
Kim: We were walking around.
Uprise RI: Really? So you didn’t even get a chance to rest or sleep?
Kim: Yeah. It was messed up. Yesterday was my birthday and I’m walking around, couldn’t rest or anything.
Uprise RI: That’s awful. So you were sick and you were away from your tent? Akim was probably working, right?
Kim: When that happened Akim was with me. He had to go to work later that day.
Uprise RI: Then they bulldozed your stuff. What was in your tent that you lost? What kind of personal property?
Kim: Everything. Blankets, clothes, some pictures. One of my wallets that had my social security card, birth certificate and everything in it. Everything was gone.
Uprise RI: That’s going to be very hard to replace.
Kim: I got my ID. Serenity is helping me get my social security and all that.
Uprise RI: But they can’t put you up anywhere? Akim’s job is in Woonsocket. You can’t go to another city.
Kim: Yeah, we can’t. I’ve been looking for a job out here and all my doctors are out here. We have to stay local.
Uprise RI: So it’s not an option to go to Providence and stay at the Armory?
Kim: We have no transportation. I feel safer being in Woonsocket.
Uprise RI: Tell me about being sick during the bulldozing.
Kim: I ended up going to a friend’s house because I was really sick. I didn’t want to risk it because they were in public housing and I didn’t want them to lose th place, but I was really, really sick and they didn’t want me to be outside because they thought I would die.
Uprise RI: How did you hear about the encampment being bulldozed?
Kim: Ray and Pamela told us that they bulldozed everything.
Uprise RI: Wow.
Kim: And then Pamela showed me the video of it.
Uprise RI: And you had no idea this was going to happen.
Kim: Yeah. They didn’t give us warning at all. We didn’t know anything until all of a sudden they bulldozed it.
Uprise RI: Before the bulldozing, what were your interactions with the police like?
Kim: They would come once in a while, but a lot of time we wouldn’t be around because Akim would go to work and I would go to the library or Serenity. They did this to us before. Our old spot was behind the motorcycle shop and they tore all that down and no one could help me then. I didn’t even talk to reporters then. The cops had said the Mayor wants all the homeless people out of her city. Go to Providence or Pawtucket where they’re more accepting of homeless people.
Uprise RI: Wow.
Kim: The Mayor doesn’t want homeless in her town? That’s messed up, saying go somewhere else.
Uprise RI: It’s messed up. How long have you lived in Woonsocket?
Kim: My cousins lived out here since the eighties, but my mom moved here in 2001 and I’ve been in Woonsocket since like 2011. I’ve been out here for like 12 years.
Uprise RI: That’s a long, long time. And have you been homeless for all that time?
Kim: Pretty much. I was couch jumping at first. And the last couple years it’s been more on the street because my family moved away.
Uprise RI: One of the things the Mayor said about that encampment was that there were needles everywhere and you couldn’t even walk by there without stepping on a needle. Is that your experience?
Kim: No. There were two people there who would use needles and they had the sharps box they would put them in.
Uprise RI: Right. I saw pictures of that.
Kim: That’s where they put them. There were never needles on the ground over there. I need a place to stay because I’m supposed to have surgeries and I can’t do that living on the streets. I’m supposed to have foot surgery. I can’t do do that.
Uprise RI: How will you get around, you’ll you’ll be stuck?
Kim: I know. I can put my fiance on the phone because he wants to talk to you.
Uprise RI: Hi Akim. It’s good to talk to you again. We met way back at the, at the park.
Akim: Oh yes, I remember.
Uprise RI: I’m so sorry about what’s going on up there. Can I ask you what your experience was like at the camp before it was bulldozed and how you you found out your stuf was getting bulldozed?
Akim: We were just trying to scrabble, find somewhere where we could just set up and be comfortable. We kind of had a couple of people and we knew and we lived by them. The day the police came they said that they were going to put us somewhere and things like that, but my girlfriend was sick and I had to go to work. So we weren’t around when they bulldozed. They said they were going to put us in a place and we’re still waiting, you know? We were supposedly at the top of the list for before the bulldozing happened. Linda Place, when she was working in City Hall, she said that we were at the top of the list. We’ve been at the top of the list for over a year.
It’s like everybody that’s coming from Providence gets put in shelter program. Everybody that’s on drugs, they put in the shelter program – except for us. We’re wondering why are we getting skipped over. And Kim’s got medical issues. They said that she should be at the top of the list, but we haven’t received any help from the city or from CCA or anything like that. We’re wondering why we’re still on the street.
Uprise RI: I wonder that too. So you were with your girlfriend when she was sick. How did you find out that all your property was being bulldozed?
Akim: When we went over there, it was basically gone. We talked to some of the people and they said they bulldozed our stuff and they’re gonna put us in the shelter program. So we assumed that we were going to be put in that day because everybody else got put in shelters that day. But we still haven’t got put in. We went to the mayor’s office today and they told us that we have to talk to the Secretary on Monday to get an appointment. I don’t think it’s fair that we’re just walking around the street now.
Uprise RI: What are you going to do for shelter tonight? Do you have any idea?
Akim: No, we’re just gonna do the same thing we’ve been doing – just walking around.
Uprise RI: Tonight it’s pretty rainy. It’s going to be very cold tonight.
Akim: It was very cold last night too. And it was raining all night.
Uprise RI: Right, right, right.
Akim: We just sat on the stage in Social Park all night. When we got cold enough, we just walked around on the stage. We could die out there, you know.
Uprise RI: I know. I know. People are dying out there even as we speak. What kind of property did you lose when they took away your tent and everything else?
Akim: Our clothes. I had hygiene stuff, clothes, food, important stuff from my from my son from before he passed, you know, they just got rid of the whole tents. They just bulldozed everything, you know. We didn’t have time to gather our stuff or anything like that. They just took everything and that was it.
Uprise RI: You said stuff from your son who passed. Do you want to to talk about that?
Akim: Yeah. He passed on October 21st of last year. I had a couple of mementos from him. I had his obituary, some pictures. I had a little stone that I made for him. A couple of sneakers that he had that I got from when he passed. All of that’s gone.
Uprise RI: I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sorry for your second loss as well. This is heartbreaking. Before the eviction and even now, what is your relationship with the local police like?
Akim: It’s a bad one because, I got a couple of charges, but they’re overwritten now. My probation’s over with those, but the police just don’t like me anyway. They locked me up about six times last year just for warrants, but they let other people go on warrants. That didn’t go to court, they ended up dropping my probation. I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m not making any trouble or anything like that. They came by the campsite to do a wellness check, but they only came by once. I just think they were there just to harass me, you know what I mean?
Uprise RI: How are things at your job? Are you able to keep your job and keep working?
Akim: That’s why I’m trying to figure out if I can stay in Woonsocket, because of my job. I want to keep close to that because I have no transportation and sometimes I work in the morning and sometimes I work at night, so I don’t want to be in Providence or Cranston where I have to take an hour bus ride down there and then an hour bus ride back.
Uprise RI: I get that. Especially since I don’t think the buses run convenient to a schedule where you’re working nights at a restaurant.
Akim: Right. My schedule switches. I don’t want to get off at 11 o’clock, get home by one and then haveto work at eight the next morning.
Uprise RI: Those are the worst shifts. I used to work restaurants and the closing/opening shifts were the roughest. It’s like you never left. Is there anything else you think I need to know?
Akim: That’s basically it.
Uprise RI: Thank you so much for this call. Please take care of yourself. Please stay warm if possible.
Uprise RI forwarded the contact information for Kim and Akim to advocates. We don’t know, as this goes to press, what their status is.