Providence expands homelessness intervention initiatives

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence’s homelessness intervention initiative is receiving nearly a half-million dollar boost.

Mayor Jorge Elorza said Wednesday that the city is giving $495,000 to Crossroads Rhode Island to help back a new outreach program for residents experiencing homelessness.

The additional funding comes from Providence’s allocated portion of the American Rescue Plan.

The new mobile diversion unit will help homeless residents regain permanent housing or enter a transitional housing program.

“Our city and state are facing a housing affordability crisis and a growing need for mental health and social service supports,” Elorza said. “This investment is just the beginning of allocating our Providence Rescue Plan dollars to supporting the crucial work of partners like Crossroads Rhode Island, who are dedicated to serving our unsheltered neighbors.”

The outreach program can also help those residents by providing financial support or referrals for mental and behavioral health.

“This critical funding will allow us to provide homeless services directly to those who are sleeping outside,” President and CEO of Crossroads Karen Santilli said. “Armed with a laptop and hot spot, our mobile diversion case managers will go out into the community and connect people with the services they need to end their homelessness, such as housing problem-solving and one-time financial support.”

While homelessness is a problem year round, activists believe now is the time to take action and make a difference ahead of the winter months.

To raise awareness, state Sen. Cynthia Mendes and other activists have been sleeping outside the R.I. State House in tents for more than a week.

Providence Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris said people experiencing homelessness need these critical services as soon as possible.

“The cold outside was unbearable, there is no heater,” she said. “There is no opportunity for them to stay warm. Right now, we are operating in an immediate need. We need to take action.”

Santilli said the mobile diversion unit should be staffed and ready to go within the next couple of weeks. She believes Crossroads will have enough money to fund the program for one year.

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