Camp Clearing by DOT Contractors Put Volunteers, Outreach Staff, & Residents At Risk 

From The Rhode Island Coalition To End Homelessness:

Yesterday, as outreach providers, volunteers, and staff were there to assist and evacuate residents of the Charles Street encampment, contractors from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation began using heavy machinery to clear out encampment “debris.” The operation of machinery delayed outreach efforts by outreach providers on-site and put residents, staff, and volunteers at risk, including a pregnant resident. This was despite several calls to the Department of Housing, local law enforcement, and even a call to 911 asking to stop the machinery from operating.

“The destabilizing and traumatic nature of encampment raids was magnified yesterday as heavy machinery operation further traumatized residents who were complying with the vacate order and working to gather their belongings,” said Alex Gautieri, Statewide Street Outreach Coordinator of the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness. “The way encampment clearings are currently done is inhumane and treating people’s homes and belongings as garbage, it further perpetuates the stereotype of people who are sleeping outside as unworthy of dignity and respect. We need better coordination that allows outreach workers to safely evacuate people before encampment clearings occur.”

As encampment raids occur, state and municipal entities must double their efforts to better coordinate with outreach providers to ensure outreach workers have the time to help residents evacuate without fear of having heavy machinery bearing down on them. We also ask state and municipal officials to let outreach workers lead the work and rely on their expertise as we look for more humane temporary solutions to the unsheltered crisis.

We are asking local and state officials to find space to create sanctioned tent encampments and or rapidly deployable shelters. These are places where people experiencing Homelessness can pitch a tent or live in a rapidly deployable shelter without the threat of law enforcement or others telling them to leave. These places often include various services, from rubbish services, heat, electricity, and case management from local service providers. Both options are temporary but are desperately needed as the state’s housing crisis continues. Shelters are at maximum capacity, people are entering the homeless system daily, and there is nowhere for them to go.

We know and understand that the end goal is permanent supportive housing for Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness. As the state works to get more housing units available online, we can also work together to provide temporary housing solutions that lead with compassion and care and support our Rhode Island neighbors experiencing homelessness.

We at the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness remain committed to advocating for the rights of people experiencing homelessness. If you are facing homelessness, please call 401) 277-4316, and agents will be available to help you in your preferred language.

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