PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The warming center set up inside the Cranston Street Armory will stop accepting new people as it begins to wind down operations.
R.I. Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor announced Friday the facility will close on Monday, May 15.
The 24-hour warming station opened late last year to provide temporary shelter to homeless people during the winter months. The center currently houses roughly 150 people per night, according to Pryor, and the goal is to reduce that to 100 by May 8 by helping people relocate.
Pryor said the state is exploring new sites and working toward setting up more permanent housing. In the meantime, people staying at the armory are being given referrals in the state system, and providers like Crossroads, Emmanuel House, and Community Care Alliance are working to add more beds.
The armory shelter was staffed by Amos House and the R.I. National Guard, while the city provided police and other operational support, according to Mayor Brett Smiley.
Amos House Executive Director Eileen Hayes called the closure “heartbreaking,” but said the warming station was never meant to be a permanent solution.
“We are feeling very sad and overwhelmed and we also, as I’ve said repeatedly, the armory is not the place for folks to be sheltered,” she said. “It’s not a shelter. It was really a place to keep people alive.”
Watch the full news conference (Story continues below.)
Pryor previously said the armory won’t be turned into a permanent homeless shelter, saying he recognized the burden it placed on the neighborhood. Area residents have repeatedly expressed concerns over increased drug use and litter, specifically in Dexter Park — right across the street from the armory.
“I wish that we had more alternatives, and I feel like we have an incredible team right now trying around the clock to find alternatives,” Hayes added.
In a statement, Smiley said his office worked with the state to wind down operations at the armory in an effort to “allow for an organized transition that will minimize impact on the surrounding neighborhood and the city.”
“We are appreciative of the incredibly hard work and compassion of the Amos House, and as a city we will continue to respond by providing security, park maintenance support, and connecting people to behavioral care,” Smiley wrote.
This represents the second delay in shutting down the shelter. It was originally slated to close April 15, since that’s when the state’s contract with the armory expired, but that was extended until the end of the month.