PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence city councilor is getting flak for boasting about participating in a homeless encampment cleanup on social media Tuesday afternoon.
The Providence City Council posted photos of Councilman Nicholas Narducci participating in the cleanup underneath the Route 146 overpass, which is located off Branch Avenue.
Among the photos is a selfie of Narducci with the overpass in the background, as well as members of the Providence Department of Public Works clearing debris from the sidewalk and nearby woods.
“Councilman Narducci remains committed to working towards solutions to the homelessness crisis in our city,” the post reads.
The post spurred a firestorm of comments, several of which dismissed the cleanup as a waste of taxpayer money.
Councilwoman Kat Kerwin expressed her concerns about the cleanup on her own social media page, calling it “the opposite of ‘working towards solutions to the homelessness crisis in our city.'”
“Who is being hurt by the people living there?” Kerwin questioned. “When we can’t offer long-term solutions, harm reduction is the best bet for the short term.”
Sara Melucci, outreach program manager for House of Hope, said she and many other homeless advocates were disheartened by the post.
“I think what was most discouraging to us, when we saw that post … was it lacked any compassion for the humans and the constituents living under that overpass,” Melucci said.
Narducci was quick to defend his actions. In a statement, he said the cleanup was organized after several neighbors complained about trash and litter in the area.
“I am continuing to work to ensure that these individuals have access to social support services,” he said.
But Melucci believes there are larger issues at play other than trash and litter.
“We play this sort of whack-a-mole game of making encampments disappear without much regard for the humans that are living there,” Melucci said. “Homelessness is a problem that is caused by policy and structure, which means that we need to learn, as those decision makers and policy makers, to point the fingers back at ourselves.”
Narducci reassured everyone that no one was displaced because of the cleanup, and police officers were there for traffic control.
12 News visited the overpass Tuesday night but did not see anyone staying there, though Melucci said those who do utilize the space typically aren’t there 24/7.