PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A homeless encampment in Providence was served an order Wednesday from the city to vacate within 48 hours.
Diumila “Matilda” Almonte is among 15 homeless Rhode Islanders who have created their own mini neighborhood in a vacant lot off Wilson Street.
She tells 12 News they’ve built an outdoor shower, eating area and have even started their own garden.
“It may be temporary, but it is my home,” she said.
Now the future of their community is in limbo, with the city ordering them to pack up and leave or else they’ll face civil and criminal prosecution.
Almonte claims the lot was empty when they found it.
Alex Gautieri, an outreach coordinator with the R.I. Coalition to End Homelessness, tells 12 News there’s nowhere else for the group to go.
“We have about 600 people waiting to get into shelters,” he said.
12 News reached out to Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office about the tent community.
A spokesperson for the mayor said the encampment is “unsafe for the people living there.”
“The city is working with social service providers to offer them safe, stable shelter and additional resources,” the spokesperson said.
While some neighbors support the encampment, others argue it’s an eyesore.
“You can’t just throw people out on the street,” Alex Morash said. “At least they have tents here, they have something, do you want them to sleep on a bench?”
But Caesar Ventura disagrees.
“There are people talking and talking every night,” he said. “I hear a lot of people come in there, I don’t want them in this block.”
Edith Peralta said the encampment makes her uncomfortable and prevents her from bringing her grandchildren to the nearby park.
“We are not able to go to the park and play,” Peralta said. “They say a lot of bad words at night … they’re fighting, arguing, all night long. We want them to move out as soon as possible.”
12 News reached out to the property owner about the encampment but has yet to hear back.