PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Amid frigid temperatures, warming centers are opening across the region, and longer-term shelters are also being readied for those who need them.
Gov. Dan McKee announced last month they were expanding capacity at 662 Hartford Avenue in Providence to provide emergency shelter for couples.
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The governor’s office announced shelter and supportive services would be provided by Crossroads Rhode Island and funded through state homeless funding.
Karen Santilli, president and CEO of Crossroads, told 12 News outreach workers found a need to provide spaces for couples, as other shelters in the state are limited to one gender.
“This will be an opportunity where they can stay together,” Santilli said.
The Hartford Avenue building is owned, but currently unused, by the Rhode Island Department of Behavior Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals (BHDDH). Last month, the State Properties Committee gave approval for the site to be a 24/7 shelter space.
“It’s not just a day shelter, and it’s also not night to night where people just line up and come in,” Santilli said. “People are assigned to a bed and we work with them to get them housed while they’re here.”
The governor’s office noted the proposal originally called for 16 beds.
“When we came and looked at the building with the state, we suggested that there were other parts of the building that could be put to use and that we could in fact shelter 40 people safely here,” she added.
In addition to assigned beds, with some in private rooms, guests will receive towels, storage, and lockers for personal belongings. Santilli said Amos House will provide meals and the Providence Center will provide mental health services.
While priority will be given to unhoused couples, individuals may be eligible for services based on the availability of beds on any given day or night.
Santilli said those who room there can stay as long as they want while the shelter is open through April, but the goal is to find them permanent housing.
“We’ll be working with them to get them into their own apartments during that time and open that bed up for someone else,” she added.
Santilli added while the shelter will help address the need to house people amid cold winter temperatures, it still doesn’t solve the housing crisis.
“We look forward to continuing working with the state to make sure that we’re building the housing that we need,” Santilli added.
Santilli said while the Providence shelter won’t be ready to open this weekend, all of its other shelters operating across the state will be open as 24/7 warming centers.