PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A homeless encampment in Providence is staying put for now after Mayor Jorge Elorza stepped in on what was supposed to be eviction day.
The encampment, located on a vacant lot off Wilson Street, currently houses 15 homeless Rhode Islanders. The tent community built their own garden, eating area and outdoor shower in hopes of occupying the lot for an extended period of time.
But on Wednesday, the community was ordered by the city to vacate the lot within 48 hours, or else they would face civil or criminal prosecution.
The notice put the entire community’s existence in limbo, that is, until Elorza showed up at their gates Friday afternoon.
While sitting at their table, Elorza told the group they would not be pushed off the lot just yet.
“I told them we are not just going to put them out on the street, because it will push the problem to another place,” he explained.
Elorza said they won’t be asked to leave until a short-term and long-term plan to help them is in place.
“I gave them my word,” he said.
Right now, Elorza said the lot is currently owned by a bank, one that’s been “absent from the scene and haven’t seemed to take interested in the land for quite awhile.”
“The city has been in the process of taking the lot from the bank,” Elorza said.
There’s no clear timeline as to when the group will be asked to leave the property, though Elorza emphasized that homelessness is an ongoing problem in the capital city.
He said the city is working on ensuring they have access to the resources they need.
“These are human beings, let’s not forget that,” Elorza said. “This is the face of a housing crisis we are seeing in the city and in the state. There’s a lot that we need to do.”
But residents who live nearby are frustrated with the encampment.
Edith Peralta told 12 News the encampment makes her uncomfortable and prevents her from bringing her grandchildren to the nearby park.
“We are not able to go to the park and play,” Peralta said. “They say a lot of bad words at night … they’re fighting, arguing, all night long. We want them to move out as soon as possible.”
Elorza said he’s aware neighbors aren’t happy with the encampment. He said the city will continue to monitor it and if any criminal or unsafe activity occurs there, things will change.