CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Housing the homeless is an issue many communities face, and Cranston is no exception.

Thursday night, councilors in Cranston voted to send a message to Gov. Dan McKee and other state housing officials that they do not want a village of so-called “pallet housing” for the homeless in their city.

“I’m compassionate for these homeless people, but I do think we’ve bared a lot of the burden already,” one resident said.

Members of Cranston’s Safety Services and Licenses committee voted 4-2 to pass a resolution opposing the establishment of pallet housing villages at the Pastore General Complex.

According to Josh Saal, Rhode Island’s Housing Secretary, there are no concrete plans to build any at that location.

In a letter sent to the council on Oct. 28, Saal noted his office and the governor’s office met with Mayor Ken Hopkins and his administration earlier that month to explore the idea of putting pallet shelters there, among other places in the state, as a way to address homelessness.

“At no point did we actively seek or plan to construct a village of pallet shelters or other
shelter beds,” Saal said in the letter, obtained by 12 News. “Our only conversation was exploratory with the goal of being as transparent as possible and in the interest of obtaining input from Cranston’s leadership team.”

Advocates say the rapidly-deployable pallet shelters are a safe way to help those without a home.

“We are all going to go home tonight in our warm beds and houses, and 425 people do not have a bed to lay down in tonight,” Jennifer Barrera, of the RI Coalition to End Homelessness. “Winter weather is coming and people are going to die if we don’t have a warm place for them to be.”

The councilor who drafted the resolution, Matthew Reilly, says the motion is not against the homeless population, and he says he agrees something needs to be done.

But adds Cranston does its fair share to help — Harrington Hall for example — and that the state should look elsewhere for places to install the pallet shelters.

“We’re not going to be the dumping ground,” Reilly said.

“We do enough,” he added. “When all the other cities and towns get around to doing what we do, then call us.”

More than a dozen residents spoke during Thursday’s special meeting, both for and against the idea.

Those who supported the resolution echoed Reilly’s sentiment and noted their concerns about public safety should more homeless individuals come to the city.

“This needs to stop,” said one resident who opposes the idea of a pallet shelter village. “The people of Cranston want to be safe. The people that are homeless need to be taken care of properly. This isn’t cutting it on either side.”

Some residents against the resolution called it premature since there are no solid plans to install pallet housing in the city. Others argued that the city should be doing more to help those without a roof over their heads, for example, by working on providing more affordable housing.

“These folks who are unhoused and in crisis are already living in our community,” said another resident. “Just because you refuse to see them or acknowledge them doesn’t mean they go away.”

“While there are currently no plans to add shelter beds in Cranston, either through rapidly
deployable structures or otherwise, we will continue to have exploratory discussions on
how to address homelessness and housing in Cranston through innovative programs,” Saal said.