News & Event
Posted:Feb 9, 2018 at 7:53 PM
Updated:Feb 10, 2018 at 12:04 AM
For 11 years, United Way’s 2-1-1 has been helping Rhode Islanders in need, handling 194,735 calls in 2017, many from people seeking financial help, information about health services, or food.
“Hello. United Way. 2-1-1. May I help you?”
Each time call center specialist Tony Medeiros answers the phone, he has no idea what awaits him on the other end of the line. United Way of Rhode Island’s 2-1-1 call center provides round-the-clock free assistance to those looking for help finding affordable food, housing, health care, transportation and more.
Twice last week, Medeiros took calls from people who were suicidal. Sometimes the most desperate calls he gets, he says, are from people seeking help with a gambling addiction. Others need help finding affordable housing.
One woman calls regularly to ask the time or the temperature. Medeiros thinks she’s lonely, so he’s started asking her about her day.
“That’s OK. She just needs to talk to somebody for a few minutes,” he said recently.
The call center acts as a one-stop-shop for resources. Its workers are trained on the offerings and applications processes of various social service and health-care programs, as well as church groups, nonprofits, shelters and more. When a person calls with one problem, call-center workers will talk through their living conditions to make them aware of other services that could also be of help.
On Sunday, United Way celebrates National 2-1-1 Day. United Way’s 2-1-1 service has been available in Rhode Island 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, since 2007.
“I listen to their story,” said Medeiros, whose shift starts at 6 a.m. “They might be saying one thing but there’s more going on. ... Sometimes people are in a domestic violence situation and they don’t even recognize it.”
United Way 2-1-1 took 194,735 calls in Rhode Island last year, a slight decrease from the 195,344 calls in 2016. But call specialists are finding higher anxiety among callers and are spending considerably more time on each call. In December 2016, the average call time was a little more than two minutes. In December 2017, the average call time was 5½ minutes, the organization reports.
Nationally, 2-1-1 answered a total of more than 14.3 million requests for help in 2017. The service is available for 94 percent of Americans, according to a spokesman for the United Way of Rhode Island, and in most parts of Canada.
Sandi Connors, executive vice president and director of strategic marketing and communications at United Way, said the trends in Rhode Island calls are reflected at 2-1-1 centers across the country. It’s not yet clear what is driving the changes, she said.
Some of the most difficult calls come from homeless families seeking shelter, Connors said. Some 72 families are currently on a waiting list for space in a family shelter.
“The hardest days are when we get the calls we can’t help,” Connors said.
Those days are often countered by others in which workers feel they’ve made a difference.
Program manager Tina Pearl remembered a call that came in to the hotline on Thanksgiving from an elderly woman who said there was an “uninvited guest” in her home. She had already called the police, who checked out the situation and determined there wasn’t an intruder. But the call center worker and Pearl determined they should also make a home visit.
It turned out there wasn’t anyone else in the home, Pearl said. The woman hadn’t eaten but she thought someone was coming over for dinner. She was confused, suffering from dementia and other health problems. They were eventually able to get her to the hospital.
“That’s why we go to work every day,” Pearl said.
2-1-1 calls, by the numbers
Here are some of the most common reasons Rhode Islanders called 2-1-1 in 2017.
Financial assistance: 162,936
Health information: 112,411
Courtesy of Providence Journal
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
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.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
2200 Southwood Drive, Nashua, NH
We invite you to be a part of the second New England Lead Conference taking place on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 in Nashua, NH. Hosted by the New England Lead Coordinating Committee, the conference will include a variety of educational sessions focusing on lead prevention, policy, model programs, outreach, the EPA’s Renovation, Remodeling and Repair Rule (RRP), lead abatement, compliance, and the economics of lead poisoning.
Read more >
October 4, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
The Narragansett Times: Dziobek steps down as Welcome House director
By KENDRA GRAVELLE Sep 29, 2017
SOUTH KINGSTOWN—When Joseph Dziobek accepted the position of executive director of Welcome House of South County nearly three years ago, he had expected the job would make for a simple transition into retirement.
But what was intended as a part-time gig turned into much more than that for Dziobek, who this week left his post.
“It’s been a challenge,” said Dziobek, whose last day on the job was Monday. “And it’s been very satisfying—I feel very close to the people who have been a part of it.”
Dziobek, 66, took the job at Welcome House after retiring from his career as CEO of Fellowship Health Resources. He said he intended only to stay for two or three years.
October 4, 2017 in Local Interest
Final Days to Register: 2017 Housing Fact Book Release
Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Luncheon: 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Location: Rhode Island Convention Center, 1 Sabin Street, Providence RI
October 3, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
Rhode Island College: The Defamation Experience
Monday, October 30, 2017
5:00PM - Doors Open
6:00PM - Performance
SPONSORED BY: THE DIVISION OF COMMUNITY EQUITY AND DIVERSITY AND THE DIVISION OF STUDENT SUCCESS
THE PLAY * THE DELIBERATION * THE DISCUSSION
September 27, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
NLIHC: Sign Letters to Support Equitable Housing Recovery after Devastating Hurricanes
Help ensure that low income people and neighborhoods are treated fairly after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. A broad coalition of national, state, and local organizations is calling on Congress, FEMA, and HUD to ensure that the federal response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria is complete and equitable for everyone, especially families and individuals with the lowest incomes who are often the hardest hit by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover afterwards.
September 27, 2017 in Local Interest, National News
Roger Williams University: Social Justice Month Events
Thursday, Oct 19
Mary Tefft White Center
How Housing Works
4:00pm – 6:00pm
Sponsored by Housing Works RI and RWU Chief Diversity Officer
Keywords: socioeconomic status, race, jobs, housing, equity
Workshop with Brenda Clement, Director of Housing Works Rhode Island and Ame Lambert, RWU Chief Diversity Officer.
An overview of housing issues in Rhode Island and connections to the larger social justice agenda.
September 25, 2017 in Local Interest
Providence Journal: People on the move for the week of Sept. 17
Posted Sep 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM
Updated Sep 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM
Rhode Island LISC
Rhode Island Local Initiatives Support Corportation has welcomed two new employees. Jeremiah O’Grady, of Lincoln, joined LISC as program officer after spending more than 12 years at ONE Neighborhood Builders as real estate project manager and director of asset management and operations.
Liz Klinkenberg, of Warwick, was hired as communications director. She brings more than 15 years of public relations experience to her new position, including work for The Miami Herald and The Providence Journal.
The Providence American: Reed Announces $300k in Community Development Grants for NeighborWorks Affiliates
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to promote healthy, vibrant neighborhoods across Rhode Island, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced an additional $300,000 in federal funding for three Rhode Island-based affiliates of NeighborWorks America (NeighborWorks). These federal funds will help NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, ONE Neighborhood Builders, and West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation to provide affordable housing opportunities, generate job growth, and enhance economic stability for working families. Earlier this year, Senator Reed also helped to secure over $750,000 in federal funding for NeighborWorks affiliates in Rhode Island, bringing total NeighborWorks investment in the state to above $1 million for fiscal year 2017.
September 21, 2017 in Federal News, Local Interest
The Providence American: Providence Unveils PVD Gives Donation Station
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined members of the City Council, public safety officials, and community leaders who have been named to the PVD Gives commission for the unveiling of the City’s first Donation Station at Kennedy Plaza. The retrofitted parking meter is one of ten stations that will be installed across the city to collect funds that will support local organizations that provide housing and services to those in need.
“PVD Gives and the new Donation Stations make it easier to give back,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “Our collective generosity can make all the difference in the lives of those striving to get back on their feet. I encourage visitors and residents to chip in and be part of the solution.”
September 21, 2017 in Local Interest
Providence Journal: Report: New England losing 65 acres of forestland per day
By Steve LeBlanc / Associated Press
Posted Sep 19, 2017 at 11:21 AM
Updated Sep 19, 2017 at 11:21 AM
BOSTON — New England has been losing forestland to development at a rate of 65 acres per day — a loss that comes at a time when public funding for preservation of open land, both state and federal, has also been on the decline in all six states.
That’s the conclusion of a report released Tuesday by the Harvard Forest, a research institute of Harvard University.
The study found public funding for land conservation in New England dropped by half between 2008 and 2014 to $62 million per year, slightly lower than 2004 levels.
Posted Jan 3, 2018 at 8:28 PM
Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 8:28 PM
PROVIDENCE — The start of a new year brought clergy to the State House Wednesday to call for action from Rhode Island lawmakers to combat poverty.
At the 10th annual Fighting Poverty with Faith Vigil in the State House rotunda, members of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition called for new measures to help provide affordable housing, make child care more affordable and strengthen public health insurance programs.
“Sadly, we are not yet where we need to be,” said Maxine Richman of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and the Coalition’s Steering Committee. “12.8 percent of Rhode Islanders and 17 percent of children — that’s over 35,000 Rhode Island children — are still living in poverty. We find these numbers unacceptable.”
The coalition’s list of legislative priorities for the year ahead includes:
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been battling over a permanent re-authorization of the federally funded CHIP program for months. States are faced with a potential decision over whether to pick up the costs if their federal funding runs out.
Gov. Gina Raimondo has identified Medicaid spending as an area she is scrutinizing for savings to plug a state budget gap, but said she hopes to avoid benefit cuts.
For the fourth consecutive year, Raimondo spoke at the vigil, which also featured Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. Both mentioned some of the policies they have supported that are designed to help the poor.
“A lot of people feel the economic resurgence — they got a job or they got a raise,” Raimondo said. “But we are not going to stop until everyone does. Too many people are being left out.”
Raimondo has consistently said she supports providing driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants — and did again on Wednesday — but will wait for the General Assembly to approve them instead of trying to create them through executive order.
The vigil took place with a major winter storm approaching New England that could place poor Rhode Islanders, particularly the homeless and those struggling to heat their homes, under additional stress.
The vigil’s keynote speech from Rev. Nikita McCallister, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Pawtucket, was all about love.
“When you do experience gridlock, conflict, complacency and hyper-partisanship in your politics, I challenge you to apply a little more love,” McCallister said.
On Twitter: @PatrickAnderso_
By Christine Dunn
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Dec 12, 2017 at 12:41 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Standing outside in the cold drizzle Tuesday morning, Mayor Jorge Elorza announced new housing assistance for residents in the form of down-payment/closing-cost loans for home buyers, and loans for home repairs.
The city has made $200,000 available for down-payment help, which will be available starting Jan. 15, and another $200,000 for home repairs. Both programs are being financed through the city’s community development block grant money. The City Council is also considering adding another $200,000 to the home-repair loan program, for which funds are available now.
All the assistance is in the form of a zero-percent interest, deferred-payment loans for up to $25,000. Payment is due upon sale, change of primary residence, refinancing with cash out, debt consolidation or transfer of the property title.
Tuesday’s announcement was made in front of a home at 160 Langdon St., purchased last year for $130,000 by Magda Berroa with down-payment assistance from the city. Berroa is the mother of a son with special needs.
City Councilman Nicholas Narducci (Ward 4) said he lives about 10 houses down from Berroa’s home, and he remembers that the house was vacant for a long time, and had started to become a neighborhood trouble spot. Acting Council President Sabina Matos and Councilman David Salvatore were also at the announcement.
“Fostering housing equality is one of my administration’s top priorities,” the mayor said.
Melina Lodge, executive director of the Housing Network, noted that Providence is one of a handful of municipalities in the state that has made down-payment assistance available to residents. Lodge’s group, an association of nonprofit community-development agencies and affordable-housing developers, will manage the city’s down-payment assistance program. The home-repair program is being run by the city’s Community Development Division.
The down-payment and closing-cost assistance is available to buyers who meet HUD income limits who purchase a 1- to 3-family home or condominium. The properties must be the owners’ primary residences. The program is also restricted to those who can commit to staying in the property for at least five years. The funding is extremely limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The home-repair loan program helps qualified homeowners perform a variety of home-improvement projects, including emergency roof replacements, heating-system replacements and correction of code violations.
Applications for the home-repair program are also processed on a first-come, first-serve basis unless an emergency situation exists that warrants prioritization (for example, a house with no heat or no running water). For more information or to apply, call (401) 680-8400 or visit http://www.providenceri.gov/planning/community-development/. Applications are also available by visiting the Joseph A. Doorley, Jr. Municipal Building at 444 Westminster St., Providence.
For more information on how to apply for down payment and closing-cost assistance, call (401) 721-5680 or visit the Housing Network of Rhode Island’s website www.housingnetworkri.org/our-programs/down-payment-and-closing-cost-assistance-program/. Applications can be made in person by visiting the Housing Action Coalition of Rhode Island at 1070 Main St., Pawtucket.
On Twitter @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Housing advocates in Rhode Island representing a wide coalition of housing groups including community development corporations (CDCS); public housing authorities (PHAs); homeless shelter providers and advocates issued the following statement on the tax bills passed by the House of Representatives and Senate Finance last week:
“Rhode Island already has an affordable housing crisis, but the tax bills recently passed by the US House of Representatives and under consideration in the Senate would make it a catastrophe. Without the federal tax credits and bonds that these bills weaken or eliminate, tens of thousands of affordable homes will not be built, and tens of thousands of families will be left homeless across our state and country.” said Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorks RI. “The programs impacted by these bills are critically important affordable housing development and preservation tools, particularly in Rhode Island. We need Congress to protect these vital programs and to invest in the affordable housing resources that we rely on to meet the urgent housing needs of Rhode Islanders.” noted Melina Lodge, Executive Director of Housing Network of RI. “If a tax bill like this becomes law, it will impede our ability to create new affordable housing for years to come and will exacerbate homelessness in Rhode Island resulting in more families out on the streets irreparably harming our communities. ” said Bert Cooper, Interim Administrator of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. “This legislation would increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion which will put immense pressure on lawmakers to make massive cuts to programs that benefit low-moderate income people including federal housing programs.” noted Michael Lyckland, President of the Public Housing Association of Rhode Island.
The House tax proposal:
· Significantly weakens the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, a successful public-private partnership that has become the foundation for affordable housing development across New England and the nation. While the credit itself is retained, it would be significantly weakened due to the corporate tax rate being significantly lowered. With less of a need for tax credits, the value of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit would drop, greatly reducing investments in low income housing by private companies. If not addressed, over the next five years, this will result in the loss of more than $35 million that could have been used to develop or preserve 400 homes for Rhode Island families.
· Eliminates the tax exemption on Private Activity Bonds, including multifamily housing bonds. This tax exemption allows bond-financed multifamily projects to access ‘4% Housing Credits,’ which have helped produce or preserve tens of thousands of affordable homes in New England. Developments financed with 4% credits often serve households with extremely low incomes, and these credits have also been used on mixed-income developments, helping to meet overall demand for market rate housing while providing rents that households with lower incomes can afford. Tax-exempt bonds are also used for reduced interest mortgages for first time homebuyers. Rhode Island currently utilizes 4% housing credits with tax exempt bond financing to preserve about 400 units every year. In addition to preserving our stock of affordable homes, that investment results in $6 million annually in construction activity, supporting 135 construction jobs.
· Eliminates the New Markets Tax Credit, a vital resource for community revitalization efforts in distressed areas. In Rhode Island, recent projects supported by the New Markets Tax Credit include Amos House, the Boys & Girls Club in Pawtucket and the Institute for Nonviolence. Housing. Between 2003 and 2015, $412.4 million in NMTC allocation leveraged an additional $405.7 million from other sources for a total of $818.1 million in project investments to 62 Rhode Island businesses and revitalization efforts, creating 8,720 jobs.
· Eliminates the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, which has had a great impact in Rhode Island attracting developers to invest in once vacant, deteriorated, and underutilized structures, such as old mills, schools, and hospitals, and transforms them into much needed housing and commercial space. Hundreds of historic and iconic buildings in Rhode Island have been returned to use, creating homes resulting in tens of millions in new local tax revenues. Based on Grow Smart RI's analysis of data from the US. Census Bureau and a 2017 Rutgers University report, Rhode Island ranks first in the country on a per capita basis for its volume of recent historic rehab expenditures associated with the federal credit.
· Reforms the Mortgage Interest Deduction, which has been a long-standing effort of housing advocates and would ordinarily be a major step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the tax proposal uses the resulting savings to pay for tax cuts, not to fund new investments in affordable housing.
· Increases the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion, putting immense pressure on lawmakers in future years to make massive cuts to programs benefiting low- and moderate-income people, include federal housing programs.
HousingWorks RI at RWU is a clearinghouse of information about housing in Rhode Island. We conduct research and analyze data to inform public policy and promote dialogue about the relationship between housing and the state’s economic future and our residents’ well-being.
Public Housing Association of Rhode Island (PHARI) is an association of twenty-five public housing authorities throughout the state dedicated to providing safe, affordable and decent housing.
The Housing Network of Rhode Island is the state association of non-profit community development corporations. Our members have developed and build thousands of units of affordable housing throughout the state and initiated numerous revitalization efforts in neighborhoods across Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless is organized to promote and preserve the dignity and quality of life for men, women, and children by pursuing comprehensive and cooperative solutions to the problems of housing and homelessness.
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