Health Care

Senator Mendes to sleep in a tent outside State House until leadership acts on homelessness crisis

“There are a lot of ways to address this crisis if state leaders had the moral will to do it,” noted Senator Mendes.
Photo for Senator Mendes to sleep in a tent outside State House until leadership acts on homelessness crisis

Published on November 30, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

“We’re in a crisis and there are hundreds of folks who are unhoused and we’re out here because we want to make sure no freezes to death,” said Senator Cynthia Mendes (Democrat, District 18, East Providence) to Uprise RI on the Smith Street side of the Rhode Island State House on Tuesday evening.

The cross breeze on Smith Hill was steady and cutting as tents were set up and supplies carried in from cars by supporters. Tonight, over 600 Rhode Islanders, at the last count Uprise RI has, will be sleeping in tents, cars, under bridges, inside abandoned buildings, doorways or any number of other places deemed “unfit for human habitation.”

“I shouldn’t have to this at all,” said Senator Mendes. “But when we’re sure that the homelessness crisis has been resolved and no one is going to freeze to death, the protest will end.”

As uncomfortable and unappealing as sleeping outside may seem, “there are people outside under benches, in their cars, praying to find a safe place for the night, that they don’t get harassed or hurt,” said Senator Mendes.

Asked what kind of response she gets when she pushes for action through more official channels as a State Senator, Mendes was rueful. “They’re not interested in acting,” she said. “State leadership feels entitled to ignore the fact that people in their state are going to die this winter. And they are sitting on a billion dollars, and sitting on the authority and power to address it.”

Senator Mendes is running for Lieutenant Governor in partnership with [former] Secretary of State Matt Brown, who is running for Governor. Brown has also committed to spending the night in a tent. But this isn’t simply some kind of campaign rally. If she and Brown were to win their respective races they won’t be sworn into office for over a year. By then, we’ll be well into our second winter in Rhode Island.

Senator Mendes is demanding action now.

“All we’re asking for is a government that cares and does their job,” said Senator Mendes. “For one second I want them to feel the urgency that a lot of people I know, people who are unhoused or on the brink of being unhoused, feel.


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“There are a lot of ways to address this crisis if state leaders had the moral will to do it,” noted Senator Mendes.

At this point Capitol Police arrived. They informed Senator Mendes that she would be arrested if she continued her plan to camp out in front of the State House.

Senator Mendes got her people together and told them that she was willing to be arrested, and explained the importance of what she was going to do.

She asked supporters to join her in her protest on Wednesday evening at 5pm.

“They can drag us out and we’ll be right fucking back because this is ridiculous,” said Senator Mendes.

However, when State Police arrived over 30 minutes later, they declined to arrest anyone and wished the Senator well.

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