News & Event
Written by Karen A. Santilli, President & CEO of Crossroads Rhode Island
Published online on August 25, 2015 at providencejournal.com.
Is it possible to provide every individual and family experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island the opportunity to be housed within 30 days of losing housing? The short answer is yes, when systems and programs are designed to effectively end homelessness rather than manage homelessness.
Rhode Islanders, like residents of other states, have challenges. Wages have stagnated. Housing is not as affordable as it once was. Finding affordable accommodations is difficult. Unemployment is high. And yet homelessness remains solvable. And we know how to solve it -- with a singular focus on housing.
Homelessness is not the character flaw of an individual or head of household in a family. While the stereotypical image is of a person with mental illness struggling with addiction, the truth is that most Rhode Islanders who live with a mental illness and/or addiction will never be homeless. Most people living below the poverty line will never be homeless. Homelessness is a remarkably rare event informed more by unique circumstances and interruption of natural supports than anything else. The solution, therefore, should be so focused.
Ending homelessness is more cost-effective than managing homelessness. It is cheaper -- about threefold less. People who are homeless consume significant taxpayer-funded services, from emergency health care to frequent interactions with police; court costs dealing with petty offenses and misdemeanors to sheltering services.
Over the past two years, Crossroads Rhode Island has revamped its programs top to bottom to focus on housing. The result? Overwhelming increases in people exiting Crossroads programs into housing: 1,238 were moved into housing in 2014 -- a 26 percent increase over 2013. Crossroads’ solution-focused thinking is pervasive in shelters and employment programs, to get people connected to housing as quickly as possible. Lengths of stay in shelters for families and single adults operated by Crossroads are down: 2014 shelter stays decreased 20 percent from the previous year.
How did we get there? Making the tough choices. From top to bottom, Crossroads’ staff now performs the tasks and interventions necessary to end every person’s homelessness. It meant changing programs and staffing. It meant having a board that supports what is proven to work, not necessarily what felt like just a charitable action. It meant making a commitment to continuous improvement.
As a result, Crossroads has been recognized as a national leader and had the opportunity to showcase its accomplishments at the National Alliance to End Homelessness conference in Washington, D.C. Others want to know how Crossroads Rhode Island went about decreasing the lengths of stays in shelters, and increased the number of people moving into housing and staying housed.
More can and needs to be done to move the entire state in the direction that will achieve maximum results. Ending homelessness in Rhode Island requires critical thought and action on where to place state and federal resources.
The best use of those funds is to target them to the individuals and families that need them the most, not based on first-come, first-served. The best use of those funds is to use data to drive investment. The best use of those funds is in hands-on supports that help people locate and move into housing quickly, and then supports for whatever issues triggered the episode of homelessness in the first place.
The best use of those funds is investing in organizations that have a track record of successful outcomes and are professionally trained on the interventions proven to work. The best use of those funds is investing in programs that deliver services aligned to evidence and practice.
A charitable approach of well-intentioned but misguided organizations is not going to cut it.
It is time to realize that we need a different approach than the one that got us into our current state -- of more than 4,000 people homeless in Rhode Island. Crossroads is blazing the path of what is possible in the state. As the new president of Crossroads, I am committed to making the changes necessary to get the job done. Will the state and its people step up to support this proven approach to ending homelessness?
The Providence Journal, July 11, 2016
Op-ed by Karen Santilli
Regarding Froma Harrop’s June 29 Commentary piece (“The streets cannot be a home”): Many cities and states are seeing an upsurge of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness. So much so that they have turned to emergency declarations to try to tackle the crisis.
The picture that Harrop painted of unsheltered individuals and families was vivid and, although extreme, is the reality for many cities across the country. What was most important in the piece was her acknowledgment that additional funding is needed to solve this complex issue.
Here in Rhode Island, we too are seeing an increase in the number of people we serve. It is unacceptable for any man, woman or child to be homeless. Yet each year thousands of Rhode Islanders find themselves without a place to call home.
A shortage of affordable housing has resulted in rents that absorb a disproportionately high share of income, leaving many only an illness, accident or paycheck away from becoming homeless. Thousands of Rhode Island families and individuals live at or near the poverty line, and are vulnerable to becoming homeless.
The only lasting solution to homelessness is permanent, affordable housing. Far too often, however, we attempt to treat the symptoms of homelessness instead of its root causes. Crossroads is working to increase the number of affordable housing units available, with the goal of preventing and ending homelessness.
Additionally, and in combination with services provided to those who come to a shelter, we have an active street outreach team that identifies, monitors and educates unsheltered homeless people about the programs available to them. In 2015, our outreach team moved 45 individuals who were living on the streets into their own apartments.
We know what the solution is, and we are working tirelessly to put it in place. However, we have a limited budget. With additional funding we can make an even bigger impact on our community and solve homelessness in Rhode Island.
In November, Rhode Island voters will see a referendum on the ballot to provide additional funding for affordable housing. We hope residents understand how vital the bond is and support creating more affordable housing opportunities in our state.
Providence Journal Article: http://www.providencejournal.com/opinion/20160711/karen-santilli-money-for-housing-crucial-for-ri-homeless
By Mark Patinkin
Journal Staff Writer Posted May. 10, 2015 at 12:01 am Updated May 10, 2015 at 1:58 AM
She was in her early 50s and had one unusual priority she explained to friends this way: “I wanted a job that would make me cry.”
Someone made a suggestion, and in March 2000, Nolan drove to Providence from her Cumberland home and walked into Traveler's Aid, which served the homeless.
“Their pain,” she recalls, “was palpable.”
Since then, Anne Nolan has been a force that has changed the way Rhode Island fights homelessness.
At the end of this month, at age 67, Nolan will be retiring, so I decided to stop by.
“Once in a while I get sleepy during the day and like to take nap,” she told me.
Hardly; spending a few hours with Anne Nolan helped me see homelessness in a new way.
The majority, Nolan said, are homeless once in their lives; folks just getting by who are suddenly hit by job loss, illness — even divorce can do it.
Karen Santilli, 48, is Crossroads' chief marketing officer and will be replacing Nolan as president. I asked her to sum up Nolan’s legacy.
As a different kind of legacy, Santilli pointed to how Nolan brought a sense of business discipline from her corporate past — including the banking world — to a nonprofit.
“A chicken in every pot,” said Nolan, “peace on earth, end of world hunger, a garage-door opener for every garage.”
For example, Crossroads ran a health clinic because the homeless need that to get back on track. But it wasn’t the agency’s expertise, so she partnered with the Providence Community Health Center to run it for them.
Then, as a mission statement of sorts, she came up with a primary focus that may sound obvious, but it added laser clarity to what Crossroads does. Nolan explained it to me this way:
In the past, that was one of many priorities mixed in with things like counseling and skills training. But she explained that people can’t do the things needed to get back in a home — like finding a job — if they’re worried about where they’ll sleep that night.
The former YMCA building where we were talking is a good example of Crossroads' priority: 200 people now live there — 176 in rooms and 14 in efficiency apartments. All were once homeless, and for cohesiveness, all are single without children.
And yes, they do offer social services, including job training in areas like nursing and janitorial work.
Does she have many success stories in that category?
“We housed him,” said Nolan, “and in the next six months, he had only four visits.”
“I often say to myself I wouldn’t survive the lives most of them have lived,” Nolan said. “The courage they have to endure it is remarkable.”
I asked Santilli, who was sitting in on the interview, for other examples of Nolan bringing focus to Crossroads.
Then she mentioned the fourth, which struck me as odd, so I repeated it.
Santilli nodded and Nolan said there’s a serious reason for it.
That, she said, can drain the staff.
So she instituted a “rejuvenation day” where each staffer has to give a plan to their supervisor for a day off strictly for personal refueling.
Nolan brings the same idea to something Crossroads is famous for in Rhode Island’s nonprofit world — a 600-guest annual fundraiser at unusual locales, one year at an airport hanger, another at McCoy Stadium, and once an outdoor “Beach Ball” on tons of sand trucked into the parking lot of The Providence Journal, one of Crossroads’ major donors. The annual event usually raises around $600,000.
“It used to be the stereotype 45-year-old white male drinking out of a paper bag,” she said. “Now we have every possible face; it’s almost 50-50 men and women.”
Her theory: “I think the sense of community out there used to be stronger. People took care of each other. Families took care of each other.” Today — that's more frayed.
She remembered a moment at a recent Christmas party at the Crossroads family shelter on Broad. Santa came with modest presents for the kids, including a toy truck for one little boy — a cheap thing, said Nolan, that you might find at a gas-station store.
I asked if she's ready to leave or sad about it.
“I love this organization,” said Anne Nolan.
Like the other day when she walked into the Crossroads community room and saw a set of parents there with two babies — and nowhere to go.
Which is what she had always hoped to find in her work.
We are pleased and very grateful to announce that Crossroads Rhode Island has been granted a Governor's Workforce Board Innovation award. The award was given to 16 agencies that provide job training to help Rhode Islanders get back to work.
This grant will enable us to train 40 low-income or homeless adults to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs)!
Our CNA training program has graduated 107 classes of individuals. Our graduates are prepared to enter the workforce with the proper training and experience necessary to begin their careers.
We recently had a chance to catch up with Yakellin Garcia, a CNA graduate from our 81st class.
Yakellin graduated from the CNA program in the fall of 2011. She visited Crossroads recently as a Career Day recruiter on behalf of her employer, Cherry Hill Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Yakellin remembers her time as a CNA student at Crossroads as both challenging and encouraging.
"The class was a little challenging because there was a lot to memorize and take in...my teachers and instructors had so much faith in me, so I didn't give up," she said.
Yakellin has been a CNA at Cherry Hill for three years. She specializes in caring for long term patients, and is not only the lead CNA on her floor, but was also named CNA of the Year there. She also has an active role on Cherry Hill's Retention and Recruitment Committee.
Yakellin is passionate about her role, and encourages people thinking about pursuing a career as a CNA, as long as they are passionate about it as well.
"Don't just do it for the money, do it because you really care," she says. "A lot of patients will depend on you."
In the future, Yakellin plans to continue her education and pursue a career in Criminal Justice.
"No obstacles that I've faced stopped me from getting to where I wanted to be, and I'm not done yet," she said.
If you would like more information on the CNA Training program and other Education and Employment Services at Crossroads, visit our website.
Today, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian announced plans to re-open the former Rhode Island Family Shelter located on Beach Avenue in Warwick.
Through a mutual and amicable agreement between the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Family Shelter and Crossroads Rhode Island, Crossroads will begin operating the shelter for homeless families on Friday, September 4th. Crossroads will also provide services and support to the families living in the supportive housing units at that same location.
A collaborative effort by the Rhode Island Office of Housing and Community Development, Rhode Island Housing, the City of Warwick and other local community partners and donors will provide funding to operate the shelter and housing program.
“I am very happy to know that this partnership will preserve all of the shelter bed space that was offered in the City of Warwick, and I am happy to see the relationship that has developed between Crossroads and the Rhode Island Family Shelter,” said Mayor Scott Avedisian. “It’s great to see a positive resolution to this issue, and I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been involved in the process for coming together to ensure that some of the most vulnerable citizens of Warwick and Rhode Island will continue to have a safe and nurturing place to stay.”
“Crossroads is honored to have been asked by the Board of the Rhode Island Family Shelter and the Mayor of Warwick to step in to re-open this valuable community resource for families who are
homeless,” said Karen Santilli, President of Crossroads Rhode Island. “This is a particularly difficult time of year for families with schools opening as well as the coming holidays and winter. While Crossroads’ goal is to secure stable homes for these families, the need is outpacing the resources available for affordable housing, and emergency shelter is necessary. We are committed to working with these families to get them housed as quickly as possible.”
The shelter offers space for up to ten families at a time. While in emergency shelter, these families will receive case management and supports from Crossroads to move into housing as quickly as possible. The seven families in the permanent supportive housing program will also continue to receive supportive services from Crossroads. With overwhelming need for shelter capacity for Rhode Island’s homeless families, this collaboration will provide families safe and secure temporary housing and will keep families together as they seek permanent solutions to their homelessness.
“The Rhode Island Family Shelter Board of Directors is excited about the reopening of the shelter as our goal was always to keep with our original mission of helping families in need. We appreciate Crossroads’ collaboration and experience during this transition time and look forward to our on-going relationship,” said Christina Johnk, Board Chair, Rhode Island Family Shelter.
North Kingstown, RI (May 6, 2011) “The communities we build today must meet our state’s and residents’ needs of tomorrow,” says Anne Nolan, President of Crossroads Rhode Island. “And that means developing properties that maintain and protect our environment, are attractive for those who live there as well as their neighbors, and are affordable to Rhode Island working families.”
That sounds like a huge nut to crack but in fact, the Kingstown Crossings apartments were designed and re-developed by Crossroads Rhode Island and KITE Architects to accomplish all three goals and is on track for LEED certification once finished. The community of the future features a lovely, village-like design that utilizes environment-saving technology– which helps residents save money, while occupying the same amount of land as the buildings being replaced.
“LEED for Homes” is a rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes. Green homes use less energy, water and natural resources, create less waste, and are more durable and comfortable for occupants.
“Rhode Island has so much to offer in terms of its beauty and environment. Yet the numbers of those who are without homes they can afford is growing,” adds Nolan. “We are proud to be able to create sustainable homes that are also affordable. This is a win-win. These beautiful homes are indeed the centerpiece of communities of the future, with walkable conveniences and schools, energy efficient systems, all the while maintaining natural, wooded surroundings and landscape.”
The development features a central pedestrian pathway, which will minimize the use of cars and eliminate drive-through traffic, making the area safer for children and families, as well as being walker- and cyclist-friendly.
Five percent of the new apartments are also designed specifically for those with disabilities and all units will feature “green” technology including energy-efficient appliances, heating systems, window systems, and insulation.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held May 20, 2011.
Kingstown Crossings LEED for Homes Details
KITE Architects worked with Crossroads RI to design Kingstown Crossings in North Kingstown with many features across the spectrum of sustainability. A feature of the LEED for Homes program is that special focus is given to tenant training as well as ongoing building maintenance. Also, special durability inspections during construction ensure that all trades are building to high standards to ensure a long life of the building. Green features include:
Location and Linkages:
- The site has been previously developed – no farmland is used, and the site uses existing infrastructure such as power, natural gas, and sewers
- The apartments are located on a major bus line, enabling residents to get to work without a car
- There are stores, schools, and parks within walking distance
- Safe, ample play space and a continuous pedestrian path is provided on-site
- Use of local materials is encouraged and documented
- The site will be re-graded to filter most stormwater on-site with natural rain gardens, instead of flowing to Narragansett Bay and overloading storm sewers
- Most of the existing mature trees on-site will be protected during construction
- Low flow toilets, sinks, and showers save water
- Landscape plantings are native and drought resistant, so no irrigation system is needed
Energy & Atmosphere:
- Homes are participating in the Energy Star Homes program
- A high level of insulation and a compact form mean that the buildings’ score for efficiency – the HERS Index – will make the apartments 39% more efficient than required by code. This translates to hundreds of dollars of savings on each tenant’s utility bills.
- A high efficiency boiler (85% AFUE) in each unit will provide both heat and hot water
- All appliances are Energy Star compliant
- A programmable thermostat in each unit allows daytime temperatures to be lower while the residents are at work or school.
- Kitchens and bathrooms are located very close to the hot water heater, minimizing heat loss through the piping
- Ducted kitchen and bath exhaust fans ensure ample ventilation
- Large operable windows and ceiling fans allow residents to keep cool without an air conditioner
- Individually metered natural gas and electrical bills encourage personal responsibility for energy use
Materials and Resources:
- Flooring material is made from locally extracted and manufactured materials
- Pests such as termites are kept from damaging the structure with the use of metal shields at the foundation, using screens at all large openings, and caulking every joint tightly.
- No tropical hardwoods such as mahogany are used anywhere on site.
- The contractor has recycling as much construction waste as possible, has diverted over 80% so far from landfills
- Lumber cuts will be planned in advance to make sure not more than 10% of lumber ends up as scrap.
Indoor Environmental Quality:
- Hard surface flooring is used throughout, reducing indoor air quality problems associated with carpet
- The apartments will be flushed with fresh air to reduce any off-gassing prior to move-in of each unit
- Radon release measures including vent piping under the concrete slabs reduce the risk of radon.
- Doors made from recycled fibers are solid-core and long lasting
- Low-VOC paints and sealants are used
Awareness and Education:
- Onsite operations manager ensures proper maintenance
- Orientation & procedural overview and tours given prior to tenant move in.
More information about the LEED-Homes program may be found at http://www.usgbc.org
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