Public Services

South Providence Neighborhood Association Report: Alarming Human Safety Concerns at Crossroads

The South Providence Neighborhood Association (SPNA) has released a community safety report highlighting the lack of services being provided around Crossroads Rhode Island.

In February 2022, after hosting a community meeting regarding feedback to Crossroads Rhode Island about both their proposed development and overall operations, the South Providence Neighborhood Association (SPNA) formed a task force to obtain information and create alternative ideas as part of what will be SPNA’s position on the proposed development, the impact of expansion on residents, and the organization itself.

After extensive research and combing through data provided by the Providence Police DepartmentProvidence Fire Department, Crossroads Resident/Participants testimony and other sources, we’re now ready to share the findings along with recommendations that we feel speak to the concerns for those who live within SPNA’s footprint.

In this impact assessment (attached) you will find:

  1. Evidence of Witness Concern and Testimony – Within 12 months at 160 Broad St., 498 police calls which on average occur multiple times a day which include  assaults, overdoses, and escalated threats of physical violence. 550 ambulance calls which 485 were for life support.
  2. Disturbing revelation that there is not sufficient oversight in place necessary to ensure basic interpersonal safety at Crossroads Rhode Island properties or other shelter / permanent supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness.
  3. Call to Action to demand basic oversight as a condition of Funding for Crossroads Rhode Island to ensure safety of their residents and participants

Here’s the report:

The South Providence Neighborhood Association (SPNA) assessed safety at the main headquarters of Crossroads Rhode Island, located at 160 Broad Street in Providence, between March 2022 and April 2023. Their headquarters has been located within South Providence since 2004. Please note that members of SPNA and Crossroads’ management team have held productive meetings on two separate occasions in recent months to create a line of communication and open dialogue around these subject matters. We look forward to continuing discussions with Crossroads around the recommendations made in this assessment. 

Our assessment was conducted due to Crossroads’ low engagement and response to concerns by neighborhood residents, as well as SPNA, regarding safety at 160 Broad Street and neighboring Crossroad sites. Also addressed is the existing negative impacts to our neighborhood due to what appears to be lack of services and care for those in need. 

As the largest organization serving individuals experiencing homelessness and permanent supportive housing, amongst other things, we believe more should be done because between October 2021-October 2022 hundreds of our most vulnerable citizens in the care of Crossroads Rhode Island were put in dangerous situations and became victims of inadequate care. At 160 Broad Street there were: 

  • 498 police calls which on average occur multiple times a day which include assaults, overdoses, and escalated threats of physical violence, according to data received from the Providence Police Department.
  • 550 ambulance calls which 485 were for life support according to data received from the Providence Fire Department.

The volume of emergency calls and safety concerns is excessive, even in the context of emergency shelter work, street outreach, and social work. Why is such a well funded organization, with so many resources, that claims to be a safe haven for the most vulnerable, in constant crisis over providing the bare minimum of health and safety standards? 

According to a person who uses Crossroad services at 160 Broad:

“They sell drugs and use it in front of my face. That’s the biggest trigger for me. Every time I go to use the bathroom they won’t let me in because they’re doing drugs.” 

In regards to assaults occurring on site the person also stated, “The drug dealers get mad when a customer goes up to someone else. They fight and drink in the community room. It happens every night…” 

This has proven to be the experience of too many that walk through the doors of Crossroads in hopes of finding safety. Nearby neighbors will tell you of similar activity outside as they and their children try to walk by. 

According to another person, who has visited Crossroads intermittently over the years, 

“There aren’t too many options for services here (Crossroads RI) so we have to go there and take the risk of a fight breaking out or something else crazy, No one seems to care. They need more security, maybe police officers or something. I don’t know if the staff can handle everything that’s going on.” 

These stories have been told before but nothing has changed. When a resident asked a recent Crossroads board member at a public event about the harm being allowed at Crossroads, the board member said they were not given this information as board members and they were unaware of it. It is important to note that a large majority of the calls are from people within Crossroads that have no other option but to call the police and rescue. It is truly a cry for help that has fallen on deaf ears. 

This persistent pattern of dysfunction appeared to be ignored by local leaders until Providence City Councilmember Mary Kay Harris helped to bring Crossroads in front of the Nuisance Task Force, in the summer of 2022, after a Crossroads resident was killed by a vehicle while sitting in the middle of the street, in front of the Crossroads facility and staff. The deceased was a resident of Crossroads and deserved the care promised to him, which should have prevented such an unnecessary and gruesome death. 

The victims are not only those that are directly harmed but those that have to witness the trauma of Crossroads residents secondhand. It is not lost on neighbors, and those struggling to stay safe who live in close proximity to this facility. 

Despite these serious issues, Crossroads has some good educational programs and well intentioned staff who do their best to provide care and supportive services. At the same time, Crossroads has failed to provide basic safety in their housing facility. There is no evidence that their educational programs have benefited the people experiencing homelessness who live or frequent the towers at 160 Broad St. The towers have instead become an avenue for a perpetual cycle of poverty and harm. Crossroads’ funding comes with the stipulation that it contribute to the advancement of fair housing. Housing is not fair or equitable if it is not at least safe for the people it is meant to serve. In 2021 Crossroads received $22 million dollars in revenue which consisted of: 

  • 54% of that money was provided by taxpayers through Federal, State and City funding 
  • 18% from individual and corporate donations 
  • 26% from various foundations 
  • 2% from earned income 

According to another person who uses their services, 

“I don’t feel safe at Crossroads. The calls are just what gets reported. There is so much that no one hears about.” 

The Policies and Procedures of the Rhode Island Continuum of Care, established here in Rhode Island in accordance with HUD regulation 24 CFR Part 578, which provides “funding for efforts … to quickly rehouse homeless individuals … while minimizing the trauma and dislocation caused to homeless individuals, families, and communities by homelessness clearly states in writing an expectation that people will be provided a safe environment. There must be an investigation into why people who are under the care of Crossroads at this location are experiencing harm at such a high rate. It is important that individuals who are in the care of Crossroads should reasonably expect to reside in a relatively safe environment. 

We are therefore strongly recommending that the following measures be implemented to help ensure this: 

  1. Comprehensive Safety Plan: Funding to expand any operation in and around the Broad Street Towers where these safety concerns have been identified, should be linked to and made contingent upon Crossroads presenting a detailed plan that shows how they will provide a safe environment for the existing location and the proposed location which will address the major safety concerns identified. 
  2. Sufficient Resources: Funding to expand any operation in and around the Broad Street Towers where these safety concerns have been identified, should be linked to and made contingent upon Crossroads providing confirmation that there are sufficient resources to successfully implement the “safety plan”. 
  3. Annual Safety Plan: Annually, Crossroads and all organizations providing housing and receiving State and/or Federal funds, should be required to report on key measures of safety, testify to the accuracy of the reports, and the public should be given the opportunity to provide testimony. Failing to submit and/or meet reasonable standards as set forth by the HUD Continuum of Care and Rhode Island Continuum of Care may jeopardize future funding or result in reallocation of existing funding as is within the authority of the Rhode Island Continuum of Care. 
  4. Rhode Island Continuum of Care Oversight: The Rhode Island Continuum of Care and an external independent review board should provide oversight of ensuring safe environments for all organizations that provide housing and are funded through State and/or Federal funds. They should also adopt as a condition of approving funding for organizations that there be an assessment of safety concerns, and for organizations where major concerns have been identified such as with the Broad Street area locations of Crossroads, there should be monthly assessments of the environment until it is deemed to be satisfactory. This may best be accomplished through the creation of a standing committee of the Rhode Island Continuum of Care on resident safety. (Currently there is not an existing independent body that monitors personal safety within shelters and permanent supportive housing agencies or people experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island.) 
  5. Rhode Island Housing Oversight: Rhode Island Housing, who largely funds what is happening there, must also require that all Crossroads housing meets, or has a defined plan with built in accountability metrics, to meet an objective standard of safe housing as a condition of any expansion.

ABOUT SPNA: The South Providence Neighborhood Association (SPNA) was formed in 2017 as an organization to bring members of both the Upper and Lower South Providence community together in a way that organizes, informs and empowers the local residents, local businesses and organizations while facilitating in the area meaningful and long-term partnerships.