PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Families on the brink of homelessness are finding hope thanks to a local nonprofit marking a major milestone.
Crossroads Rhode Island started as a small group to help find housing and employment for women and girls in need. Now, more than a century later, it’s the state’s largest social service agency to help the homeless.
“I get up early, walk 45 minutes to work, then I work the whole day, and then I walk home again,” Nova McGuirk told Eyewitness News.
McGuirk admits she gets tired with her schedule and has her share of long days, but what the mother of seven has left behind is a feeling of being lost, hopeless and homeless. She and her children spent seven months in a Middletown shelter until Crossroads stepped in and helped her through its Rapid Rehousing Program.
“They helped pay security and several months’ rent,” McGuirk said.
McGuirk is one of more than 3,500 Rhode Islanders served by Crossroads every year. The agency is marking its 125th anniversary this fall, coming a long way from the 16 young women they helped house during its early years when it went by Travelers Aid.
“We are not exclusively seeing women,” VP of Family Services Cicely Dove said. “We help women, men, families. We still provide that critical service that helps people get into the next phase of life.”
The next trend that’s emerging: Rhode Islanders who are walking a fragile line between housing stability and homelessness.
“I think many people are now examining those that are precariously housed, couch surfers, those that are families doubled up, at any moment find themselves at our front door,” Dove explained.
That’s why Family Services at Crossroads is trying to strengthen case management and offer financial assistance to more families who are at risk to better control the inflow into their system.
Over the decades, Crossroads’ budget has increased to $14 million a year and the agency’s broadened its mission to include job retraining and advocating for more outreach for children who are in school while homeless.
“Think about this growth: we now serve hundreds of people a day. We are touching the lives of thousands of people a year,” Dove added.
“I’m extremely grateful,” McGuirk said. “My kids are all with me.”
Crossroads’ leaders are hoping more affordable housing will be a priority for our elected officials over the next year, and their long-term dream would be for some of the local emergency shelters to be dissolved because there wouldn’t be as much of a demand for them.