‘There’s nothing’: Warwick mom on the brink of homelessness struggles to find affordable housing

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island mother who nearly ended up on the streets this past summer is struggling to find a place for her family to live.

Donna Wood tells 12 News that earlier this year, her landlord sold the apartment she and her four children have lived in for five years.

In June, the new owner gave Wood just 20 days’ notice to pack up and move out, which she said was difficult since her son has severe disabilities that cause him to be in and out of the hospital.

“I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy,” Wood said. “It really is an awful thing to go through, especially when you have a sick baby.”

“Just looking at my kids every day, not knowing where I was going, was heartbreaking,” she added.

Thankfully, Wood received help from Ehren Hunt, a housing navigator with the Tri County Community Action Agency.

“Just the thought of him being on the streets … he would’ve been taken from me,” Wood said. “Without him, I would be on the streets because I had nowhere to go.”

Hunt was able to secure temporary housing for Wood and her family through a hotel program funded by the R.I. Coalition to End Homelessness, but it wasn’t easy.

“Donna’s situation is a situation where the system worked the way it was supposed to work,” he said. “She has no eviction, she was supported and with any luck she will be in a long-term home. The issue is, it shouldn’t take families with needs as great as Donna’s [to qualify for assistance].”

Hunt believes Wood was approved for temporary housing because she would have had the most difficulty surviving without it.

“The shelter system in our state is over capacity, so when there’s only so many resources to be used, it has to be prioritized,” Hunt explained.

Right now, the R.I. Coalition to End Homelessness reports that there are 600 Rhode Islanders living on the streets. The state has also seen a 35% decline in vacant housing units, and homeless shelters are full of people with nowhere else to go.

“We don’t have the shelter space for the people who are living outside right now,” Hunt said, adding that he receives hundreds of calls from desperate families looking for housing. “The problem is two-fold – we need places for them to go now … and then we need places for them to live, because Rhode Island families deserve to have stable homes.”

Even though Wood and her family have a place to stay temporarily, she still needs to find permanent housing before the end of the month.

If she doesn’t, her family will end up on the streets.

“There are no apartments,” she said. “There’s nothing … and not only are they hard to come by, but the price of them – nobody can afford.”

Wood said she recently found a four-bedroom apartment in Warwick for $2,300 a month, but she’s worried that her Section 8 voucher won’t be approved in time, and she doesn’t make enough to pay the landlord outright.

“I would never be able to afford that,” she said. “It wouldn’t matter how many jobs I worked, I would never be able to afford that rent.”

But while she’s struggling to secure stable housing, Wood said she’s thankful for the support she’s received from the community. So far, a GoFundMe page she set up for her family has raised more than $10,000.

“At least someone was able to help me, but that doesn’t happen for everybody,” she said.

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