PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A homeless encampment located on a vacant lot in Providence has been ordered by the city to leave the property by the end of the month.
Those living at the encampment were notified of the deadline on Wednesday.
Half of the encampment, located on Wilson Street, was leveled by the property owner earlier this week. The city warned that all belongings left on the property after Nov. 1 will be removed and stored for 30 days.
Mayor Jorge Elorza said a private developer already owns the portion of the lot that was bulldozed. He also said the Providence Redevelopment Agency will soon transfer ownership of the other half to the developer as well.
This is not the first time the homeless encampment has been ordered to vacate the property. Earlier this year, the city warned the people living there that if they did not leave within 48 hours, they would face civil and criminal prosecution.
But Elorza intervened before the deadline, telling those who lived there that they wouldn’t be forced out until a short-term and long-term solution to help them was put into place.
Elorza said the short-term solution will be to provide those living on the vacant lot with temporary housing.
“We’re working with service providers on the ground to try to find them roofs over their heads,” he said. “Some of these folks have some significant mental health issues, so it’s just a challenging situation.”
Long-term, Elorza said the city is putting $500,000-worth of federal COVID relief funding towards addressing the city’s housing crisis.
But that money can take months to distribute at both the city and state levels, according to R.I. Coalition to End Homelessness Executive Director Caitlin Frumerie.
Right now, Frumerie said 600 Rhode Islanders are currently living on the streets. She believes the housing crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I’ve never seen it this bad, or this high,” she said. “We’ve just reached a point where there aren’t enough shelter beds, there isn’t enough housing and it’s just pushing people outside.”
Frumerie said she’s frustrated by the city’s decision to force the encampment off the property, claiming that right now, there’s nowhere else for them to go.
“Anytime someone who already doesn’t have a safe place to be is asked to leave … that’s upsetting,” Frumerie said.