Letter - Clarifying the Record on Woonsocket’s Response to Homelessness
By Benedict F. Lessing, Jr., MSW, President/CEO, Community Care Alliance
This letter was published in the Providence Journal on December 1, 2021
I am writing in response to Woonsocket Councilman Jim Cournoyer’s editorial to clarify the expenditure of funds contracted to Community Care Alliance to address and prevent homelessness.
The city awarded Community Care Alliance an $809,000 Emergency Solutions Grant. It is important to understand that our contract stipulates these funds be spent over a 2-year period. In less than 1 year, we spent $591,000 to shelter over 80 homeless people in local motels and prevented over 120 people in Woonsocket from becoming homeless. As per our agreement with the city, the remaining $218,000 is being used for rental assistance to keep 15 families housed and to cover the cost of staff working non-stop to keep the city’s most vulnerable people, including many children, safe and warm.
Despite these efforts, 50+ people per night sleep on the street in Woonsocket. Statewide, this number is over 600 individuals monthly with an estimated 1,000 awaiting shelter services. Decreasing temperatures create dangerous, sometimes fatal conditions, given that many of these individuals have serious physical and mental health problems. Community Care Alliance is focused on creating emergency shelter resources to save lives and preventing homelessness. Neither we, nor the City of Woonsocket, can address this statewide public health crisis alone. Our swelling homeless population in Rhode Island is a crisis calling for emergency intervention. Solving this crisis requires adequate funding from state and local government and philanthropic organizations, as well as innovative, cost-effective, and compassionate practices by Community Care Alliance and other community-based organizations across the state.