News & Event
Posted Jan 3, 2018 at 5:09 PM
Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 5:09 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Crossroads Rhode Island will continue to take in sex offenders at a homeless shelter in Cranston under an agreement between the parties to a lawsuit challenging a new state law that limits the number of convicted sex offenders who can be housed in homeless shelters.
The parties met in chambers Wednesday afternoon with U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith.
According to Lynette Labinger, a lawyer for the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit, Judge Smith recognized that there are significant legal and factual issues that the state has not yet had a chance to address. The parties agreed that while they are developing the legal issues, no one would be turned away as a result of the new law that allows only 10 percent of shelter beds to go to sex offenders, she said.
Crossroads has not been turning anyone away since the law took effect Jan. 1, she said.
The Rhode Island ACLU is seeking to block the state from enforcing the law. The suit was filed last week on behalf of a group of registered sex offenders and the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project.
In court papers, the ACLU faults the law as being aimed at Harrington Hall in Cranston, a state-owned emergency shelter operated by Crossroads on the Pastore campus, that has become a place of last resort for sex offenders whose options for residency have been limited by restrictive residency laws. The hall has 112 beds, and the new law would limit to 11 the number of beds that could go to sex offenders.
The lawsuit charges that the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause and as well as anti-discrimination laws.
The lawsuit also claims that putting sex offenders on the street will make it more difficult for law enforcement to monitor them; decrease their access to community services and increase the risk to public safety; and, by forcing them to shelter outside during the winter, impose life-threatening conditions on them.
Posted Jan 2, 2018 at 4:52 PM
A U.S. District Court judge on Wednesday will hear a lawsuit by the R.I. affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the new law, which imposes a 10-percent cap on the number of convicted sex offenders who can be housed in homeless shelters.
PROVIDENCE — A lawsuit that would protect homeless sex offenders from being relocated from a Cranston shelter goes before a U.S. District judge Wednesday afternoon.
The law, which took effect Monday, limits the number of convicted sex offenders who can be housed in homeless shelters. Harrington Hall in Cranston, a state-owned shelter operated by Crossroads Rhode Island, has become a place of last resort for sex offenders whose options for residency have been limited by restrictive residency laws.
The Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to prevent the new regulation from taking effect. The suit was filed last week on behalf of a group of registered sex offenders and the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project. It will be heard before U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith on Wednesday.
Laura Calenda, a spokeswoman for Crossroads, said her agency’s understanding is that the law limiting the number of sex offenders stands, regardless of the ACLU’s lawsuit.
Harrington Hall, which has 112 beds, is an emergency shelter for men experiencing homelessness. It is also one of the few places in Rhode Island where homeless men who are sex offenders can find temporary shelter, according to Calenda.
The new legislation limits the number of beds at Harrington Hall being occupied by sex offenders to 11. As of New Year’s Eve, Calenda said, there were 12 sex offenders staying at the shelter.
“Because Crossroads is committed to ensuring community safety, while also helping homeless or at-risk individuals and families secure stable homes, we have been working diligently to comply with the new law for the last six months,” Calenda said. “Since July, we have found permanent housing for 47 men. Of those, 36 are sex offenders.”
Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU, said his agency is moving forward with the suit regardless of Crossroad’s effort to reduce the population of sex offenders at the Cranston shelter.
The suit charges that the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause and also violates anti-discrimination laws.
“New Year’s Day should be filled with hope, joy and goodwill,” Brown said. “For some people, as a result of this callous law, it will be anything but that. We hope this lawsuit can stop this cold-hearted law from taking effect.”
On Twitter: @lborgprojocom
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Last month, a bill that would cap the proportion of registered sex offenders in homeless shelter beds at 10 percent for shelters whose capacity exceeds 50 people passed in the Rhode Island State House. A coalition of activists are now asking via petition that Gov. Gina Raimondo veto the bill, arguing that the legislation is “against the public interest.”
The bill passed the state Senate in June after the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended it for passage. The bill was passed in concurrence by the Rhode Island House of Representatives Sept. 19, and the veto petition was sent to Raimondo Sept. 26.
Seven individuals, including several directors of homeless shelters and non-profits, co-signed the petition to the governor. Forty to 50 individuals will be displaced if the bill is passed, which would create a public safety concern both for the displaced individuals, as well as the larger community, according to the petition. If passed, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2018, and the petitioners note that this would leave people homeless in the dead of winter. This would also increase risks of recidivism, petitioners say.
Perceptions of the bill are sharply polarized, and while detractors argue that the legislation jeopardizes public safety, supporters say the bill actually defends it.
State Sen. Frank Lombardi, D-Cranston, is a co-sponsor of the bill and introduced it alongside State Sen. Hanna Gallo, D-Cranston. Cranston is the location of Rhode Island’s largest homeless shelter, Harrington Hall. Harrington has 112 beds which are open to single men. “Harrington Hall has the highest number per capita of registered sex offenders transported there at any given time in the state of Rhode Island,” Lombardi said. This disproportionate concentration of sex offenders in a single neighborhood was the impetus for the bill especially because “the residence hall surrounds at least three elementary schools,” he said.
The question of appropriate maintenance of distance between schools and sex offenders is no new issue in Rhode Island. Convicted sex offenders have been restricted from living closer than 300 feet from any school property since 2008, The Providence Journal reported. In June 2015, the General Assembly expanded this to 1,000 feet for Level III sex offenders — those most likely to re-offend. This law placed 64 percent of Providence off-limits to these registered sex offenders, according to the Journal. In October 2015, the lawsuit Freitas et al. v. Kilmartin was filed challenging the law’s constitutionality as violating due process; after the case was filed, a judge placed a restraining order on the law, effective to this day and as long as the case remains unresolved.
“It’s very sad that we have a significant population of people who are required to register as sex offenders that have no place to live but Harrington Hall,” said Andrew Horwitz, petitioner and assistant dean for experiential education at Roger Williams University. Although the 1,000-foot rule is not in effect, the critics of this bill say that sex offenders do not have options other than Harrington Hall because of policies in other shelters and the 300-foot restriction. “We’ve got such incredible restrictions on where registered sex offenders are allowed to live that pretty much any place in Rhode Island that has affordable housing is off-limits for somebody who is a registered sex offender,” Horwitz added.
Concerning the safety of the public, “what reduces recidivism is stability,” Horwitz said. “When you render somebody homeless” by limiting the number of beds available to them in shelters, “you destabilize them,” he said.
One of the “public safety” concerns in Lombardi’s district is cases of sex offenders being dropped off at the shelter and loitering if no beds were available. He characterized the bill as an “incentive to have all of these homeless shelters share — not overburden Harrington Hall only with registered sex offenders.”
Lombardi had not heard about the petition but was not surprised to learn there was one; “there was a very vibrant debate” in the Senate, he recalled, “given the polarizing issues involved; on one side the issue of public safety and on the other side is the issue of homelessness.” Though he supports the bill, Lombardi recognizes more progress is needed to be made toward finding permanent solutions to homelessness, including for sex offenders. “We need the judiciary, we need law enforcement, we need the public housing folks,” he said.
The petition proposes an alternative path from the bill: a “study commission” that would devote time and resources to considering viable options for housing for registered sex offenders, which could inform future legislation. It also suggests potential amendments to the bill, such as changing the date it would take effect and limiting its applicability to Level III Sex offenders.
Horwitz himself is in favor of building more homeless shelters and having a more decentralized homeless system to relieve Harrington and the neighborhood; but fundamentally he said he views shelters themselves as only rudimentary solutions to homelessness. He would prefer legislation creating more affordable housing and repealing “irrational” housing restrictions to address Harrington’s predicament.
The main plaintiff in Freitas et al. v. Kilmartin, John Freitas, was a Level III sex offender. Barbara Freitas, director of the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project and formerly homeless herself, is his widow. She was another of the seven signatories of the petition.
Freitas echoed Horwitz’s concerns. The bill’s “attempt to keep the public safe is failing miserably, because they will end up in the street,” she said. Freitas explained that sex offenders are at least accounted for in a homeless shelter due to the requirement to register. This means that “public safety” is better served by keeping homeless shelters’ numbers of sex offenders uncapped for community members and visitors alike.
Freitas does not expect Raimondo to heed the petition. Freitas says she was part of a previous attempt to convince Raimondo to veto the 300-foot rule, without success. “Nobody wants to have the veto go through about sex offenders. That’s a sure way to have yourself not get elected,” Freitas said.
If the governor were to veto the bill, there would be no effort by the legislative branch to override the veto, according to Lombardi. The bill was transmitted to the governor Oct. 3. She is required to sign or veto legislation within six days of transmittal. The bill is “currently under consideration for action in the coming days,” according to the governor’s press office.
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article stated that the bill was passed in the State Senate in May, In fact, it was passed in the State Senate in June. A previous version also contained an incorrect titled for Andrew Horwitz, petitioner and assistant dean for experiential education at Roger Williams University. The Herald regrets the error.
Courtesy of The Brown Daily Herald
Posted Apr 17, 2018 at 3:35 PM
Updated Apr 17, 2018 at 10:13 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I — Richard Cudworth’s new studio apartment on Dexter Street already looks homey seven months after he moved in, cluttered with a bike he’s fixed up, an empty bird cage he might give to his girlfriend and a keyboard he’s offering to sell to his visitors.
It’s worlds away from where he lived for the nine years before he arrived: the Harrington Hall homeless shelter in Cranston, cramped not with Cudworth’s personal effects but rows and rows of metal bunk beds and thin foam mattresses.
“This,” the 60-year-old Cudworth said, surveying his new home at the Mike Terry Apartments on Tuesday, “is a pretty beautiful place.”
Cudworth is one of 172 formerly homeless men who have moved from Harrington Hall — where 112 men can sleep at night in a converted auditorium — to permanent housing since Crossroads Rhode Island took over operation of the shelter less than two years ago.
Crossroads emphasizes a “housing first” philosophy. Crossroads officials said previously getting a job or getting sober was a precondition to getting a home. But jobs are hard to find from a homeless shelter. So now housing comes first.
“Ultimately, our end goal is to move everyone in Harrington Hall into housing so that we don’t have a shelter with 112 beds,” said Karen Santilli, the president of Crossroads Rhode Island, which started running the facility in July 2016. “We need to continue investing in programs that are solution-focused.”
Harrington Hall in Cranston has seen its nightly average population dip from 140 in December 2015 to 105 in March, the group said Monday, a decrease of 25 percent. Some people stay for short periods, but others, like Cudworth, have stayed for years.
Crossroads’ new approach was jarring at first for the men who stayed at Harrington Hall, Santilli said. Some men were upset about the possibility of leaving Harrington, calling the bunk bed-lined shelter that’s closed during the day their home.
“Why are you doing this to us?” Santilli recalls some of the men asking.
“I said, ‘This is not your home,’” Santilli recalled. ”‘You deserve better than this. And we’re not going to set you up for failure.’”
The shelter has also seen a reduction in the average number of registered sex offenders who stay there, from 53 a night in December 2015 to 18 a night in March 2018, a decline of about two-thirds.
That decrease comes on the heels of a new state law requiring shelters to cap the number of sex offenders who can stay at one shelter at 10 percent of the total number of beds. The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has filed suit objecting to the law, but the state has stayed enforcement pending the outcome of the case in federal court.
The R.I. Department of Corrections in November awarded Crossroads a $1-million contract to help plan for the release of registered sex offenders from prison. Of the 172 men who have moved from Harrington to housing, 84 were registered sex offenders, Crossroads said.
Finding housing for registered sex offenders who are released from prison helps prevent them from being clustered in one area, and also lends stability to their lives. That helps reduce the likelihood that they’ll re-offend, Santilli said. The men present unique challenges when they get out of prison, because affordable housing is already scarce, and the men can’t live within certain distances of schools and day care centers.
For all of its clients, Crossroads offers case managers who help determine whether the men have income, housing vouchers or qualify for rental assistance. The Mike Terry Apartments opened in December 2016, and is owned and managed by Crossroads itself.
Even while reducing the number of people who stay at Harrington Hall, Crossroads has faced headwinds, societal and political. More social services are needed generally as the opioid epidemic rages in Rhode Island, and the nation, though Santilli said the burden has been heaviest for women and families, which Harrington does not serve.
Another challenge: Crossroads saw a nearly 29 percent cut from 2017 to 2018 for a pool of city, state and federal rental-assistance funding, according to the group. The rental assistance lasts for a maximum of two years, Santilli said, and most people don’t need it after nine months to a year.
“Without that support, people will continue in shelter and cost the state much more,” Santilli said.
Cudworth, the formerly homeless man who now lives on Dexter Street, got the support of Crossroads. He’s been sober for four years, and disabled since a car hit him in 1985, he said. His nine years at Harrington were among the longest anyone had been there, but it took his case manager only about three months or so to find him his new place, he said.
“They moved,” Cudworth said. “They got something done.”
On Twitter: @bamaral44
Posted: Dec 10, 2018 at 5:10 PM
Although Raimondo was the lead defendant in the lawsuit, her office declined to comment on the settlement.
Harrington Hall has 111 beds, so the 10-percent limit law would allow only 11 sex offenders to stay there at once.
Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for Kilmartin, provided this statement about the settlement and Mattiello’s criticisms:
“This statute as written did not have an enforcement provision. And, after extensive negotiations with the plaintiffs and with approval of the defendants, a settlement agreement was reached that keeps the statute in place while requiring Harrington Hall to seek alternative housing with reporting requirements to law enforcement.”
Updated Nov 11, 2018 at 10:28 PM
U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report released on Nov. 1 found that the total number of reported veterans as homeless in 2018 decreased 5.4 percent since last year and fell to nearly half the number of homeless veterans reported in 2010.
Veteran homelessness in the U.S. continues to decline, according to a national estimate.
In announcing the latest annual estimate, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said that communities are reporting fewer veterans in their shelters and on their streets. Exhibit 1.7 of the report shows that, among all states, Rhode Island is listed in the top 10, with 1,180 homeless and 69 unsheltered. See the entire report online at bit.ly/2kthLvp.
Each year, thousands of communities around the country conduct one-night “Point-in-Time” estimates of the number of people in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and unsheltered locations. This year’s estimate finds that 37,878 veterans were homeless in January 2018, compared with 40,020 reported in January 2017. HUD estimates that among the total number of reported homeless veterans in 2018, 23,312 were found in sheltered settings while volunteers counted 14,566 veterans living in places not meant for human habitation.
HUD also reports a nearly 10 percent decline among female veterans experiencing homelessness. In January 2018, communities reported 3,219 homeless female veterans, compared with 3,571 one year earlier.
The decrease in veteran homelessness can largely be attributed to the effectiveness of the HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which combines permanent HUD rental assistance with case management and clinical services from the VA. HUD-VASH is complemented by VA programs that use modern tools and technology to identify the most vulnerable veterans and rapidly connect them to the appropriate interventions to become and remain stably housed.
Last year alone, more than 4,000 veterans, many experiencing chronic homelessness, found permanent housing and critically needed support services through the HUD-VASH program. An additional 50,000 veterans found permanent housing and supportive services through VA’s homeless programs.
HUD and VA have a wide range of programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans, including health care, housing solutions, job training and education. More information about the VA’s homeless programs is available at www.VA.gov/homeless.
Veterans who are homeless or are at imminent risk of becoming homeless should contact the Providence VA Medical Center online at www.providence.va.gov/services/homeless/index.asp or call (401) 273-7100 and ask to speak to a homeless coordinator. You can also call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET. More information about HUD is available at www.hud.gov.
Items of interest
— The Providence VA Medical Center and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Providence Regional Office are hosting a joint veterans’ town hall meeting from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16, at the Providence VAMC, fifth-floor auditorium, main building, 830 Chalkstone Ave.
Benefits updates and a Q-and-A session will be held.
— The Lincoln Knights of Columbus will honor the service of veterans and first responders to the country and communities with a free breakfast on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 8 to 11 a.m., at the Columbus Club of Lincoln, at 171 Jenckes Hill Rd. They will also collect new items to support Operation ROVAC (Remembering Our Veterans at Christmas), which will be given to the men and women residents of the Bristol Rhode Island Veterans Home. Men’s and women’s clothing, winter hats, gloves, scarves, shoes, slippers and handkerchiefs are needed. Books and food are not needed, but there is a definite need for large-print word search books, DVD movies, music CDs, greeting cards, print magnifiers with lights, large-size toiletries, Dove and Irish Spring soap, stick deodorant, shaving cream, cologne and perfume.
— To assist veterans in navigating benefits and other services available to them, the Woonsocket Harris Public Library, 303 Clinton St., will host three informational sessions, from 10 to 11 a.m. on Nov. 17, Dec. 15 and Jan. 12, all Saturdays, in the library’s main program room. Tim McGorty, Woonsocket Veterans Service adviser, will answer questions and assist veterans with the benefits process. For more information, call McGorty at (401) 830-2599 or email him at email@example.com.
— Veterans of Foreign Wars: Gatchell Post 306 Auxiliary, 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, 171 Fountain St., Pawtucket; Post 916, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, 155 High St., South Kingstown; Lymansville Memorial Post 10011, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, 354 Fruit Hill Ave., North Providence; Kelley-Gazzerro Post 2812, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, 1418 Plainfield St., Cranston.
— Vietnam Veterans of America Greater Providence Chapter 273, 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post 2812, 1418 Plainfield St., Cranston.
— Korean War Veterans Association Northern R.I. Chapter 3, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, Glocester Senior Center, 1210 Putnam Pike, Chepachet.
— U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: Flotilla 72, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, USCG Sector Southeastern New England office, 20 Risho Ave., East Providence; Providence Flotilla 78, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, Aspray Boathouse, 2 East View St., Warwick.
— U.S. Submarine Veterans Rhode Island Base, 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15, R.I. Aviation Hall of Fame building, 6854 Post Rd., North Kingstown, and all submariners are welcome.
— U.S. Navy Seabee Veterans of America Island X-1 Davisville, 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, Seabee Museum, 21 Iafrate Way, North Kingstown.
— Fleet Reserve Branch 42, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, Seabee Museum, 21 Iafrate Way, North Kingstown.
— Jewish War Veterans of the USA Post 23, 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, Tamarisk Assisted Living Community, 3 Shalom Drive, Warwick, business meeting; for more information call Steven Musen at (401) 463-5159 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— American Legion Smithfield’s Balfour-Cole Post 64, Christmas party, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, 170 Pleasant View Ave.
Send veterans’ meeting and news items to George W. Reilly at VeteransColumn@gmail.com.
PROVIDENCE (AP) – Advocates for the homeless are trying to block a Rhode Island law that limits the number of convicted sex offenders who can stay at homeless shelters. Lawyers representing the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project and six registered sex offenders filed a lawsuit Friday over the law that’s set to go into effect on Monday. Their complaint says that law is unconstitutional and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Providence Journal reported. They are asking the judge for an injunction that would prevent the state from enforcing new law. The law puts a 10-percent limit on the number of shelter beds that can be given to registered sex offenders. The law was pushed by Cranston lawmakers who said they were upset with the number of sex offenders staying at Harrington Hall shelter.
Courtesy of Westerly Sun
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