Given 48 hours to vacate, unhoused encampment in PVD holds press conference“I don’t understand how we’re being evicted when no criminal charges [have been made] by the owner,” said Diumila Almonte, the leader and spokesperson for the encampment. “The owner doesn’t even exist right now. He’s been MIA since, I believe, 2019. These people have been subject to illegal questioning, illegal search of their property, cops trying to tear down tents and it’s just not appreciated. Everybody deserves to be respected, no matter what background, no matter what color.”
Published on June 10, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist
On Wednesday officers with the Providence Police Department cut the chains on a metal fence to enter an unhoused encampment and garden off Broad Street to deliver eviction notices. Those who have formed a community in the lot are demanding a real and permanent solution to homelessness in Rhode Island.
Six police officers went tent to tent, making sure that everyone currently staying in the lot was delivered a letter, even if it meant opening the tents to drop the letter inside.
The letter, on city stationary, was curt:
“To Whom It May Concern:
“You are hereby notified that you must vacate this property within the next 48 hours. Failure to do so will result in consequences to include civil and criminal prosecution.“
The letter included phone numbers to reach out to House of hope CDC for services, and was signed, “Very truly yours, Steven Paré.” Paré is the Public Safety Commissioner in Providence.
- Unhoused, they banded together. Now their “garden” is about to be dispersed.
- Providence Police search unhoused encampment – threaten arrests
- Given 48 hours to vacate, unhoused encampment in PVD holds press conference
According to the Rhode Island Homeless Management Information System, 390 people were living outside in May, 2021 in “places not meant for human habitation.” Add to this the 212 people experiencing homelessness in government supported hotels as of June 5, the 320 active family shelters, the 549 individual shelters, and we can see that being unhoused is a serious problem. There are currently no proposed state or city plans that begin to address the scale of the problem.
657 people, 326 being families with children, are on a waiting list for shelter. Between January 1 and May 27, 225 people were referred for a housing subsidy, 87 people actually got one, and only 35 people were able to use the housing subsidy towards shelter.
UpriseRI caught up with Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza outside City Hall on Wednesday evening.
The Mayor maintained that the 15 people currently occupying the space can not stay because “it is not safe over the long term.” The Mayor pledged that he will, “do the right thing and take care of them,” which includes finding them all safe housing or hotels.
Uprise noted that the letter sent to the encampment by the police earlier in the day said nothing about seeing to the needs of those in the encampment in the way the Mayor was now promising. Instead it threatened civil and criminal charges and set a hard deadline for leaving. The Mayor said the letter was written by the police department, suggesting that it did not reflect his views.
“From what I understand, we’ve been getting a lot of complaints from neighbors,” said Mayor Elorza, “that’s what precipitated this.”
The Mayore has not met with the campers, but he “is happy to talk to them…
“They’re human beings. They deserve to be treated like human beings and live in a comfortable place,” said the Mayor.
“There’s hundreds of people living outside,” said Diumila Almonte, the leader and spokesperson for the encampment. “And we haven’t had a chance to have a concrete plan. We’ve been working on this for over ten years – even though my involvement has been more recent – it’s something I see going on and on. [It’s hard] for us to feel safe in an environment while we’re waiting for housing, permanent housing.
“Shelters are starting to become full, there’s so many homeless people and there’s not enough shelters to keep up with the amount of homeless that we have.
“Everybody in this community will tell you that they feel safe here, and the only times we have felt unsafe is when government officials like the Mayor has made remarks, as he has, our City Councilor has made remarks, as she has – that makes us feel unsafe.
“Why do you guys not want something that we’ve created and worked so hard to make an area that wasn’t so beautiful to begin with – but look at what we have done. This is my home and it may be temporary but it’s my home for now.
“I also want to bring up the threats and harassment from the City, the cops especially. If you’re going to arrest somebody for a warrant, ok, you’re doing your job – but what’s the unnecessary hostility and harassment from them? We do not appreciate that, and the threats, especially when they’re full of lies – it amazes me.
“The eviction notice,” continued Almonte. “I don’t understand how we’re being evicted when no criminal charges [have been made] by the owner. The owner doesn’t even exist right now. He’s been MIA since, I believe, 2019. These people have been subject to illegal questioning, illegal search of their property, cops trying to tear down tents and it’s just not appreciated. Everybody deserves to be respected, no matter what background, no matter what color.”
“It’s sad that we’re going through this civil war,” continued Almonte. “Think about it: In the 1920s we fought for women’s equality. In the 1960s we fought for peoples of color’s rights, and now we’re fighting for what? I feel it’s like a civil war among my own people and it shouldn’t be like that. Just like I’m understanding of why they might not want us here, they need to be understanding as to why something like this might actually be goo for the community.
“We welcome anybody to come and visit. Come get to know the people that stay here because they’re amazing people and their stories deserve to be heard. It’s not fair that they’re scared because they feel that people on the outside of the community judge them based on what they’ve done.”
Currently about 15 people, including Almonte, stay at the encampment.
In response to the City saying that the encampment is not safe, Almonte was unequivocal: “I say that they’re full of BS… I’ve been homeless since I was 18, on and off. This is the most sense of community that I have felt – other than the community between me, my husband and my kids. These people are great people. We contribute to the community. We keep things as clean as possible. Anybody who says this place is unsafe is just not giving us a chance to get to know us.
“We look out for each other, not only in here, but if I know they’re out there to be in danger – We’ve gone looking for people. We leave nobody behind. And that’s the point. When did we stop caring about the human race? We all have the right to be treated equally and fairly.
“A lot of the people on this lot – I don’t know how to express what I’m trying to say – We don’t get treated fairly. That’s point blank. Not from our government, not from our officials an not from our neighbors in the community and that’s not fair. These people are human beings. Come sit down and talk to these people before making a judgement on them. You’ll realize that they aren’t difference from anybody else that’s housed. Actually we’re a lot alike and I think that’s why people are scared. They see themselves in us.
“When you lose faith in yourself you tend to lose faith in the people around you. We need to bring that faith back, and that hope back.”
“What services do you need,” asked UpriseRI.
“It’s not that we need services. We’re already working on services. What I accomplished in a day [Councilwoman] Mary Kay Harris couldn’t accomplish in a week. And it took a simple phone call to people and reaching out to my community.
“This is my community that I created – with my community. And I love it. I wouldn’t have asked for such great people in my life. They’ve become family to me and I’m proud to look at them all in the eye and say that they’re my family and I love them so much.
“My goal is to see them succeed and have their own apartment. This is not a permanent solution. It’s a solution good enough to make people realize what it is that we need.
“Almonte asks government officials to “just come visit us, actually get to know us. Every one of the people here need things that are specific to them. So for me to say we need this, we need that, wouldn’t be fair without talking to them.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what might happen for everybody else but for me, I’m standing my ground. Unless there’s a permanent solution to the problem and unless you want to be part of that solution, I don’t see why we have to go anywhere else.”
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