PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The 24-hour warming station inside the Cranston Street Armory officially opened its doors to homeless Rhode Islanders Friday evening.
Gov. Dan McKee activated up to 50 Rhode Island National Guard members earlier this week to temporarily help run the the warming station while the state searched for a vendor.
The governor confirmed that the Amos House has been selected to run the warming station, which consists of a sleeping area with 66 cots, medical facility, cafeteria and gathering space, and homeless provider services.
Amos House CEO Eileen Hayes tells 12 News the temporary warming station will offer three meals per day, showers and bathrooms to those who need them.
“In our collaborative effort to serve all those who are unhoused in Rhode Island, we are thankful to Governor McKee and his staff for identifying this space and expediting this project,” Hayes said. “For the many individuals who are currently without safe housing during the winter months, the Cranston Street Warming Station will provide warmth, safety and an array of vital services.”
The Amos House is already on site and will work closely with the Rhode Island National Guard to ensure a smooth transition of operations over the next few days. Hayes said the Amos House recently hired 25 workers to staff the warming station.
“We’ve been kind of building the plane as we’re flying it,” Hayes said.
Hayes stressed that the warming station isn’t a place where the homeless can stay long-term.
“We’re not a shelter,” Hayes explained. “You don’t come in, get a bed and then stay here. The idea is that we’re here for people to get out of the weather, out of the elements, to be able to be safe.”
“We will have care coordinators to help folks access all kinds of services that they may need,” she continued. “What we need more than anything is to get every single person here housed … everybody’s goal is housing.”
Hayes said families with children aren’t allowed to stay at the warming station, but her staff is working to place those seeking shelter elsewhere.
The governor thanked the Amos House “for stepping up in a remarkable way to support this crucial effort.”
The warming station opened the same day a judge denied a preliminary injunction, which was filed earlier this week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Rhode Island Center for Justice on behalf of more than a dozen homeless protesters camped outside the Rhode Island State House.
The homeless protesters have been living in tents on State House grounds for the past week in an effort to call attention to what they believe is a lack of adequate housing and shelter.
The McKee administration handed out notices last week to the homeless protesters, ordering them to leave the State House grounds. However, a judge’s decision allowed them to remain there while the preliminary injunction was under review.
McKee confirmed that all of the protesters were offered shelter, transportation and a place to store their belongings, though not all of them accepted.
It’s unclear at this time when the protesters must vacate State House grounds. The ACLU is planning on appealing the judge’s decision.
The warming station will remain open through April 15.
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