Public Services

With winter approaching, Rhode Island falling short on need for shelter beds

Rhode Island has promised around 1097 beds going into the winter. Advocates estimate that the total number of shelter beds needed is 1300, a shortfall of around 203 beds. That shortfall will only get worse, if current trends persist.

Published on November 2, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

The Rhode Island Office of Housing and Community Development responded to Uprise RI‘s request for a list of available shelter beds in Rhode Island this winter. According to the released document there are currently 873 shelter beds available in the state. [See the document at the bottom of the page] The document comes with a caveat: The list includes roughly 50 FEMA-funded non-congregate shelter beds that are being wound down, and it does not include the majority of the 274 new beds that have been financed this year.

Adding in the 274 beds that have been financed by the McKee Administration, and subtracting out the 50 or so FEMA beds, Rhode Island has promised around 1097 beds going into the winter. Advocates estimate that the total number of shelter beds needed is 1300, a shortfall of around 203 beds. That shortfall will only get worse, if current trends persist.

At a breakfast unveiling of the 2022 Housing Fact Book last Friday, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee announced the funding of 350 additional shelter beds, but on Monday, Secretary of Housing Josh Saal announced that the number of additional beds was actually 274.

The number of unhoused persons in Rhode Island has been rising

The latest number from the Homeless Management Information System shows that at least 461 people are sleeping outside as of November 1. The number on October 22 was 435. That’s 26 additional people in a week. These numbers are continuing to increase, and they are likely undercounts as advocates do not have sufficient outreach workers to contact all of those living in the estimated 80+ encampments in the state. Those needing shelter cannot get it because there are hundreds on waiting lists for emergency shelter as winter approaches.

Last year, at least 42 people experiencing homelessness died in Rhode Island.

According to the 2022 Housing Fact Book, released last Friday by HousingWorks RI, figures for those who are chronically homeless and unsheltered are up 105%, and up 35% for adults experiencing homelessness. Further, while formal eviction filings with the court have decreased for nonpayment of rent, eviction filings for other reasons have risen by as much as 94%. Informal evictions, may outstrip formal evictions by a factor of five. That is, for every formal eviction handled legally by the court, there are five informal evictions happening. An informal eviction occurs when renters move out of their homes after being threatened by their landlord. Because these evictions happen outside of court, they are difficult to track.

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