Health Care

The numbers are in and it’s official: Homelessness is rising – fast

1,810 individuals experiencing homelessness on the night of the PIT, a 15% increase from last year and a nearly 65% increase since the 2020 count…

Rhode Island News: The numbers are in and it’s official: Homelessness is rising – fast

June 7, 2023, 9:42 am

By Steve Ahlquist

The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness (Coalition) released the 2023 Point in Time (PIT) count results at a Rhode Island State House Library press conference on Tuesday. Margaux Morisseau, Deputy Director of the Coalition, acted as emcee for the event. The Point in Time count is conducted annually in Rhode Island and provides the community with a snapshot of how many people may be experiencing homelessness on any given night.

1,810 Rhode Islanders were experiencing homelessness on the night of January 25, 2023. The results of the 2023 count highlight the continued trend of increasing numbers of Rhode Islanders experiencing both sheltered and unsheltered homelessness. You can watch the press conference here:

2023 Point in Time Count results are dire: Homelessness at record levels

“We are experiencing an extreme rise of unsheltered homelessness out of the scale of anything that we have seen,” said Caitlin Frumerie, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness. “Unfortunately, the data continue to highlight what we already know: we are in a housing crisis and need to do more to protect our unhoused neighbors. We are grateful for the leadership of the Department of Housing in working to create more emergency resources in recent months, but we must begin planning for next winter, which is only months away. The reality is that housing instability continues in every single city and town in our state, and we need a collaborative effort to address this crisis head-on.”

“This count helps HUD gauge the dimensions of homelessness in each jurisdiction,” said Emily Freedman, Vice-Chair of Rhode Island Continuum of Care Board of Directors. “It helps policy makers, program administrators and communities to track progress towards the collective goal of ending homelessness in our state and nationally.”

This year’s PIT survey was conducted from January 25 through February 1, a shorter time frame than the 2021 and 2022 Point in Time Counts, which were conducted over a two-week period due to the pandemic. Local PIT leads were on hand to survey Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness alongside dozens of volunteers. Some of the highlights from the 2023 PIT include:

  • 1,810 individuals experiencing homelessness on the night of the PIT, a 15% increase from last year and a nearly 65% increase since the 2020 count (Jan 2020)
  • 1,215 individuals and 595 people in families experiencing homelessness, a 13.5% increase and 17.5% increase from 2022, respectively.
  • 334 Rhode Islanders who are unsheltered, a 370% increase from 2019
  • 629 Rhode Islanders who are chronically homeless, a 26.5% increase from 2022
  • 100 Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness who identify as veterans
  • 81 young adult Rhode Islanders who are experiencing homelessness

The Point in Time Count is conducted across Rhode Island, yet it is fundamentally an undercount – many people move in and out of homelessness during the year, indicating that the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in 2023 is higher than the numbers included in these results.

“The level of the challenge has brought forward a mandate that we do more,” said Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island Secretary of Housing. “So we need to use that mandate. We need to use that momentum.”

“Last year, the administration expressed doubt in the numbers we had [concerning the rates of homelessness in the state]. I was wondering if you were confident in the numbers we have now and if you think they acurately reflect the the nature of the problem out there,” Uprise RI asked Secretary Pryor.

“We’re receiving the umbers, so we’re analyzing them,” responded Secretary Pryor. “It is a point in time, so it is important to note that even since the PIT count occurred, we’ve opened new shelters… Having said that, do any of us doubt that there’s a significant problem in terms of homelessness and a significant problem as to housing?

“No. We don’t doubt it.”

You can watch the rest of the question and answer session here.

“While stark, today’s announcement that unsheltered homelessness has risen dramatically should be no surprise to Rhode Islanders. This topic has dominated our press, airwaves, community conversations, and neighborhoods – seemingly everywhere you turn, we are confronted with this challenge,” said Laura Jaworski, Executive Director for House of Hope CDC. “House of Hope’s street-based outreach team has been on the front lines, bearing witness to the increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness, helping them to survive in the absence of adequate emergency shelter or housing. We must all work to create immediate solutions to this issue to ensure all who need a safe place to sleep at night have access to one.”

“I want folks to have compassion for unhoused Rhode Islanders,” added Ruth “Diamond” Madsen. “The state of homelessness changes from every five minutes to every day for people on the street. We need more empathy from law enforcement and a set base of wrap-around programs to support people when they get to shelter or an apartment and even afterward to ensure they are successful.”

The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness issued a call to action:

“We need to continue to invest in infrastructure to ensure that every Rhode Islander experiencing homelessness has access to adequate resources. We need to support our neighbors, the heroic street outreach workers, and front-line workers by immediately:

  • Establishing a permanent Housing Problem Solving Fund to assist households with flexible funding
  • Continuing to increase low-barrier, diverse Emergency Shelter Options
  • Committing to Diverse, Quality, Affordable Housing for All

“As identified in the recent report conducted by BCG ~ Rhode Island has consistently failed to invest in the infrastructure and development of housing units necessary to address this crisis.

“We implore our elected officials, local cities and towns, and every single Rhode Island to support legislation and planning efforts to ensure every citizen of Rhode Island has housing as a human right.”