PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the homeless population has been hit especially hard.

In Rhode Island roughly 1,055 people experience homelessness every year.

“It’s more complicated and difficult so we are seeing an increase in families who otherwise would never have become homeless,” Crossroads R.I. CEO Karen Santilli said.

As the winter months approach and it gets colder, COVID-19 becomes more of a threat to homeless people, so Crossroads opened an emergency shelter at a former YMCA building that added 30 additional beds with appropriate social distancing.

The building was vacant for the last two years. Crossroad began to renovate it earlier this year, when they were awarded COVID-19 relief funds.

“We’re making sure that our folks are first and foremost safe,” Santilli said. “That they have the personal protective equipment that we all need to stay safe.”

This is in addition to the over 370 people who are housed by Crossroads statewide, but Santilli said they are hoping to change that with the same YMCA being used as an emergency shelter.

“Right now, we’re looking at about 27 permanent supportive housing affordable apartments,” she said. “It will probably have some health component to it.”

The project is about two years out and still in the developing stages, with more funding needed to execute it.