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
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
Homelessness in Rhode Island is on the rise. The state saw a 1.7 percent increase in homelessness this year according to a new report by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Statewide, 1,180 people experienced homelessness on a single day earlier this year. Nearly 400 were children in homeless families; almost 100 were veterans. Of even greater concern, Rhode Island’s chronically homeless population nearly doubled, increasing from 136 to 240.
After years of successfully reducing homelessness, Rhode Island’s homeless numbers are heading in the wrong direction. The solution to ending homelessness is actually pretty simple. Our “Housing First” model effectively gets people off the streets, out of shelter — and into permanent, affordable housing with the support services necessary to help them remain housed. Unfortunately, Rhode Island simply does not have enough housing that is affordable and meets people's needs.
Fortunately, social service agencies like Crossroads Rhode Island step in to bridge the gap. But hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal funding cuts, including the loss of Housing Stabilization dollars through Medicaid, Road Home and the Neighborhood Opportunities Program, are significantly reducing the amount of aid available for 2018 and beyond.
It’s the chronically homeless, the state’s most vulnerable population, who are likely to pay the price. Many of these individuals struggle with physical and mental illness, hunger and poverty — fighting every day just to survive. Without adequate funding for housing and support programs, they will end up back on the street, sleeping in doorways, camping under highway overpasses or staying in shelters.
Recently, 283 people slept in a Crossroads shelter, including 53 children in 27 families. Others sought refuge at different shelters — or bundled up in outdoor places where no one should have to spend a cold, winter night.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but helping those people find permanent housing solutions will ultimately cost taxpayers far less than keeping them in shelters. Research shows that the chronically homeless are much higher users of Medicaid, police, fire and rescue and other services.
A 2013 study of 67 chronically homeless Rhode Island Medicaid users revealed charges of $59,651 per person, more than double Medicaid charges for the average housed, disabled adult. In fact, over the course of 26 months, those 67 individuals cost the state $9.3 million in Medicaid costs alone.
Over the last three years, Crossroads helped more than 3,000 people move into permanent housing—and stay there. Several had been living in shelters for 10 years or more. Ten years. Let that sink in. Imagine how much it cost taxpayers to shelter those individuals for more than a decade, never mind what it would be like to live in a homeless shelter for that long.
The bottom line is that programs like “Housing First” save more taxpayer dollars than reducing funding. Working together, we can reduce the number of men, women and children experiencing homelessness, help save taxpayer dollars and find every Rhode Islander a safe place to call home this holiday season.
— Karen Santilli is president and CEO of Crossroads Rhode Island.
By G. Wayne Miller
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Dec 24, 2017 at 6:35 PM
Updated Dec 24, 2017 at 6:35 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A home for the holidays.
Homeless no more.
That is the story Lisbeth Matos Cruz brings us this Christmas, courtesy of Crossroads Rhode Island, which assisted Cruz and her son Jamuel, 15, in finding an apartment after they were forced to leave the discomfort of the place where they had been living.
Not now. Their new apartment on this recent wintry afternoon was warm and warmly decorated.
“I am thankful for mama,” read one line on a Thanksgiving card Jamuel had created.
“I am thankful for family,” read another.
The card topped the Christmas tree that the son and mother had placed in the kitchen, where a poinsettia graced the table. A Christmas tree, on their first Christmas they would not celebrate in their native Puerto Rico.
Through translator Cynthia Dukes, her case manager at Crossroads, Lisbeth recounted the circumstances that brought her to the mainland, and then — almost — to the city streets.
“I was looking for a better way of life and a better education for my son,” Lisbeth said, when she left Puerto Rico. They lived with a relative in Rhode Island initially, but by June circumstances had grown intolerable.
“His way of living was not the best,” Lisbeth said.
Staff and students studying English with her at Dorcas International advised her to call United Way’s 211 help number. Lisbeth was connected to Crossroads, which provided temporary housing in its family shelter for her and Jamuel as they worked toward a more durable life.
“Philosophically, Crossroads follows the very effective ‘housing first’ model,” Laura Calenda, chief marketing and philanthropy officer told The Providence Journal. “Research shows that providing individuals and families with a stable place to call home is a critical first step to helping them address the other issues which may have led to them being homeless. In fact, 75 to 91 percent of households remain housed a year after rapid ‘rehousing.’ ”
Lisbeth, who had no job, either, embraced the approach.
“I really just wanted the little help I need to get out of the situation I was in, being homeless,” she said. “I did not want to have to depend on the government helping me. So I looked for work and getting myself back on my feet.”
In September, Crossroads found her the apartment. According to Calenda, Crossroads “owns or manages 375 housing units throughout the state” and provides assistance with more than 150 additional units on the private market.
Lisbeth gave momentary thought to returning to Puerto Rico, where her grown children live, but September’s Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island, eliminated that option.
Mother and son were Rhode Islanders. And Lisbeth in late November entered the workforce, finding employment with a packaging firm.
“I am 100-percent grateful to Crossroads and to the staff,” she told The Journal.
“We’re thrilled that we were able to give Lisbeth and her son the helping hand they needed to get their lives back on track,” said Calenda. “We are also hard at work finding permanent homes for the 63 children in 26 families that are currently staying in our shelters. No one should have to be homeless for the holidays.”
“I’m getting emotional,” Lisbeth said, tears filling her eyes. “I feel good. I’m very thankful.”
For those who are where she once was, she said “take the opportunity that any agency like Crossroads gives you. Put effort in, follow the rules, and let them help you.”
And, of course, “Feliz Navidad, and a happy New Year.”
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Posted Jan 5, 2018 at 10:26 PM
Updated Jan 5, 2018 at 10:26 PM
On Friday nights Megan Smith walks through downtown Providence looking for people who may be struggling with homelessness, addiction, poverty — or some combination of the three — to connect with.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Inside the bus station in Kennedy Plaza, Megan Smith held a grocery bag stuffed with gloves and hats. In her pocket, a stack of bus tickets and Narcan.
“The essentials of life,” she mused. “Or of some life.”
Smith works as a project manager at House of Hope, a Warwick-based outreach center for the homeless. On Friday nights, she walks through downtown Providence looking for people who may be struggling with homelessness, addiction, poverty — or some combination of the three — to connect with.
“The root of it is nonjudgmental listening, bearing witness and from that trying to tackle things at the micro and macro level,” Smith said, snow crunching beneath her boots.
But this Friday was different. With 20-mph winds barreling down Broad Street, she braced against the icy temperatures in an attempt to persuade people to go inside. Or at least accept a pair of ski gloves.
“This is the kind of night where if someone doesn’t have a safe place to be, everything else is moot,” she said. “Because they might not get a tomorrow. It’s that cold out here.”
She plodded down Broad Street with interns Sara Melucci and Andy O’Dell, checking stairways and around corners for people. It seemed the extreme cold, 12 below zero with the windchill, had driven most indoors. But not all.
Robert Souza stood in a thin coat outside the 7-Eleven on Dorrance Street, his arms wrapped around himself.
“Could any of you spare change for a bus ticket,” he asked. Smith launched into action. She procured a pair of gloves and helped Souza put them on his hands. And then handed him a bus pass, so he could get back to Riverside, where he had a place to stay.
“Oh sweetness,” he said as he slipped on the gloves. “Oh thank you. I can’t thank you enough.”
With a quick smile, Smith continued to the bus station. Inside the terminal was a swirl of chaos. Some people were trying to catch buses, some buying time in the heated station.
Mark Rossignol fell into the latter category. From her years as a caseworker, Smith recognizes nearly every straggler left in the terminal or on the street outside. But Rossignol was a new face. She sensed he needed help because of the giant backpack parked next to him.
“Good evening, sir,” she said as she approached and introduced herself. Rossignol smiled wide when presented with gloves.
“Thank you so much,” he said, while having difficulty moving his frozen hands. “It’s so painful, the cold. I can’t thank you enough.”
Rossignol shared his story — he was born in Massachusetts, and lived in Rhode Island as a child when his father, who was in the Navy, was stationed in Newport. Forty years ago, the family moved to Florida.
After a separation from his wife a few weeks ago, Rossignol said he decided to “come home.” He was met with the coldest weather he’s ever experienced.
Hesitant to go to Crossroads Rhode Island, he was waiting for a break in the weather that likely won’t reach Rhode Island until Monday. Nights at a shelter can be loud and scary, Rossignol explained. He has schizophrenia and deals with bouts of paranoia, making the shelter environment even more of a challenge, he said.
Before he even finished his tale, Smith was making phone calls. Providence Rescue Mission usually doesn’t allow people after a certain hour, but she got Rossignol in.
Elated, he bundled back up and headed to the bus stop.
Smith and the interns walked back up to Cathedral Square toward Crossroads, continuing to check each corner.
“Please don’t try to stay outside,” Smith begged anyone passing by. “Please.”
On Twitter: @jacktemp
Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter!
Newsletter Sign Up
Newsletter Sign Up
One Empire Plaza, Ste. 327
Providence, RI 02903
HousingWorks RI is a proud partner of RI Alliance for Healthy Homes