ProJo: Women in Action: Karen Santilli leads Crossroads RI amid virus threat
Karen Santilli is used to handling crises in her work as president and CEO of Crossroads Rhode Island, the state's largest provider of services for the homeless. But the current coronavirus emergency is posing an unprecedented challenge for the agency and its clients. “At a time when lots of places are closing, and rightly so, we're not,” says Santilli.
To our readers: We are providing vital coronavirus content for free online as a public service during the outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Providence Journal.
Handling crises is not new to Karen Santilli. It's at the very heart of her work as president and CEO of Crossroads Rhode Island. She leads a team that provides shelter, services and housing for the homeless, offering stability to those facing desperate situations so they can get back on their feet.
“When they're first experiencing homelessness, they are in crisis,” said Santilli, 53, of Crossroads' clients. “They've gone through whatever social safety net they had. And by the time they get to us, they have really nothing but the shirts on their backs and what they can carry.
“Our job is to deal with the crisis that they're in and get them out of it. That's what our folks do. So, we're kind of used to it.”
But in the last few weeks, the complexity of Santilli's work has been compounded by the new coronavirus. And the seasoned staffers at Crossroads, like so many on the frontlines, are fighting to overcome professional and personal hurdles unlike any they've ever encountered.
“This current situation is a level of crisis and anxiety that, obviously, none of us has ever experienced in our lifetimes,” said Santilli. “And, it's really challenging.”
Courtesy of Providence Journal