PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The McKee administration’s deadline for homeless individuals to leave the Rhode Island State House grounds is fast approaching.
Gov. Dan McKee’s staff handed notices to individuals on Wednesday telling them they have to vacate the premises by 9 a.m. Friday. According to the governor’s office, camping and overnight sleeping at the State House is banned and they have outreach workers prepared to relocate individuals.
Attorney Rick Corley told 12 News he filed a temporary injunction in Superior Court, demanding the removal of homeless individuals from State House grounds be put on pause.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re all Rhode Islanders,” Corley said. “You own this property, I own this property. The governor is the temporary person sitting in the corner office.”
Corley claims the individuals at the camp were not provided the services promised, adding that the Cranston Street Armory warming station hasn’t opened and other shelters are full.
A hearing will be held Friday morning, according to Corley.
McKee’s office said every homeless individual was offered transportation, a bed, and a place to store belongings. When asked how those who refuse to leave will be penalized, McKee’s staff said they would be charged with trespassing.
Lisa Hodges is one of the people living on the grounds after previously living in a three-bedroom home. Hodges told 12 News the increased cost of rent and a lack of affordable housing forced her to camp at the State House.
Hodges said she has applied to more than 50 places to live.
“They want you to have three times the amount of the rent. Who makes that kind of money?” Hodges asked.
McKee told 12 News on Thursday they are working with providers to establish more than 350 new shelter beds.
“We’re going to continue to expand the number until we have more shelter than we need so that we actually can get to the work in terms of housing,” McKee said.
Caitlin Frumerie, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness, said the economy and the end of some rental assistance options have worsened the homelessness crisis.
“We have approximately 875 beds in our system and last night, I had six openings,” Frumerie said. “We have over 500 people living outdoors, these are just some of the individuals. There’s just not enough beds.”
Frumerie said hundreds of Rhode Islanders currently live on the streets. The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island sent a letter to McKee Thursday alleging the measures used to remove individuals from the camp are “inappropriate” and “without legal basis.”
“A lot of people are just one paycheck away from being in this exact same position,” Hodges noted.
Last week, the McKee administration announced they’d be opening a 24-hour warming station at the Cranston Street Armory. The state sent letters of intent to potential vendors, asking for proposals on how to operate the warming station.
As of Wednesday, the state had not received any proposals and extended the deadline until Dec. 15, according to a spokesperson for Secretary of Housing Josh Saal.
“Once I was loved and adored because I had a job and I was contributing to society, but now that I’m homeless, I’m hated and abhorred,” Hodges added.
12 News reached out to the McKee administration regarding the injunction, to which a spokesperson confirmed it’s been received.
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