PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Three Rhode Island mayors expressed frustration Thursday about a report that homeless families have been relocated to their communities from New York City without their knowledge.
The New York Post reported last week that the city has been secretly exporting homeless individuals and families to other parts of the country with a year’s worth of rent in their pockets under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Special One-Time Assistance Program.” In some cases, New York taxpayers also foot the bill for travel expenses and furnishings.
Citing Department of Homeless Services data, the post said New York has sent 5,074 families — 12,482 individuals in total — to 373 cities and towns in 32 states and Puerto Rico, with the receiving community often being none the wiser.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt released a joint statement Thursday calling the program “an outrageous example of bad public policy.” They said it’s “irresponsible” for New York to spring needy families on other communities without warning, especially those already “working with limited resources to improve [their] residents’ quality of life.”
A map provided by the Post shows only a small number of families have been relocated to Rhode Island — three to Providence and one each to Pawtucket, Woonsocket and North Kingstown — but the mayors said they have no way of knowing whether more may arrive in the future, noting that any additional families will use limited state and local resources.
The three mayors, all Democrats, said they hope to work with state leaders and the R.I. Department of Human Services to try to make sure the program doesn’t negatively affect their cities moving forward.
Karen Santilli, president of Crossroads Rhode Island – the leading provider of housing and other services to the state’s homeless – also expressed frustration with the lack of notice, along with concern about what might happen to these families once the rent money runs out.
“Are they going to end up homeless in Rhode Island?” she asked. “We have no idea because there is no communication. We don’t know who these families are.”
Giving a lump sum of money to people battling homelessness doesn’t solve the problem, according to Santilli. She also said affordable housing is already in limited supply.
“To have more people coming from outside the system trying to find a place to live as well only makes it that much more difficult,” Santilli added.
Here’s the full statement from Elorza, Grebien and Baldelli-Hunt:
“Based on the information in the New York Post’s article, this is an outrageous example of bad public policy. Providence, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket are financially distressed communities working with limited resources to improve our residents’ quality of life. It is deeply concerning that the City of New York is relocating members of their community to ours and many others without informing us. To send these families to other cities and towns with no communication or support structure is irresponsible.
“We will continue to do everything we can to assist our residents, especially those experiencing homelessness, despite having limited resources. This irresponsible approach is taking away the resources that we as individual communities and the State of Rhode Island have. We echo many of the sentiments of the mayors of other communities. While it is unclear how many families have been relocated to Rhode Island, we must sit with State leaders and the Department of Human Services in order to ensure that the Special One-Time Assistance Program does not negatively impact our communities moving forward.
“Otherwise, this will come as a cost to the state as a whole, and not just the municipalities. While it appears relocations have occurred in Providence, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket at this point, there is no indication that New York’s Special One-Time Assistance Program will stop in our cities or will refrain from moving families experiencing homelessness from New York City to other cities in Rhode Island.”