annual report cover photo

2019 Annual Report

Celebrating 125 years of helping Rhode Islanders in need.

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Founded as the Travelers Aid Committee of the YWCA

The original charter of the Travelers Aid Committee was to protect “…young girls on arrival in the city, taking them to friends who have failed to meet them, directing them to safe boarding places, and finding employment for those who are without money or friends, thus preventing what might be their first step to ruin.”

From The Chairman & President

A message from Jack McConnell

On behalf of Crossroads Rhode Island’s Board of Directors, it gives me great pleasure to provide you with our 2019 Annual Report. I am so proud to serve as Chairman for this remarkable organization, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. While Crossroads has evolved through the decades to meet the changing needs of the community it serves, the agency has remained steadfast in its commitment to helping those who need help the most.

A significant number of those who reached out to Crossroads for help last year were at a high risk of dying if they did not get housing. But thanks to Crossroads and the funders and donors who make our work possible, more than 2,050 men, women and children are no longer homeless, many have returned to the workforce and thousands have had hope restored.

In addition to successfully delivering on our mission, I can affirm without hesitation that Crossroads is also an exceptional steward of their funders’ donations. To ensure fiduciary responsibility, each year Crossroads participates in an outside, independent audit with stellar results. I can honestly say that I have never worked with a group of nonprofit management professionals who run a complex, $13 million organization as well as Crossroads.

I believe that stable housing is the centerpiece required for folks to have the opportunities to grow and thrive in society, and that is the central mission of Crossroads.

A message from Karen Santilli

As we write, the world is clenched in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic and last year seems but a distant memory. But 2019 was a milestone year for Crossroads Rhode Island, one in which we celebrated our 125th anniversary of helping Rhode Islanders in need, which is certainly an achievement worth celebrating!

As we dug into our archives, rifling through decades of old photos and yellowed meeting minutes, it soon became clear that Rhode Island is no stranger to adversity. Together, we have weathered many storms, including the Spanish Flu, World Wars I and II, and previous economic downturns like The Great Depression and Great Recession. Through them all, one thing has remained constant: Rhode Islanders reaching out to help other Rhode Islanders.

Thanks to you, our generous donors and funders, Crossroads was able to provide housing and housing-related services to more than 3,100 people last year. Your support has very literally saved lives—and continues to do so by providing individuals and families with a safe place to stay-at-home during the pandemic. The link between good health and safe and affordable housing has never been more clear.

Although the future currently seems uncertain, we know that we’ll get through the current health crisis. Together. Thank you for your ongoing support.

– Jack McConnell, Chairman, Crossroads Rhode Island, Board of Directors

– Karen A. Santilli, President & CEO, Crossroads Rhode Island


Incorporated as the Travelers Aid Society of Providence

During the decade that followed, Travelers Aid focused its efforts on “the unattached transient” traveling by bus, trailer, automobile and train. These travelers, who ranged in age from 12 to 96, included those with lost tickets or wallet, immigrants, the unemployed and runaways.

The Face of Homelessness in Rhode Island

Each year, about 4,000 people experience homelessness in Rhode Island. The vast majority are working poor, often holding two or three jobs, but still struggling just to get by. An illness, job loss or unexpected bill is sometimes all it takes for them to tumble into homelessness. Fortunately, thanks to you, Crossroads is there to help. In 2019, we provided services to more than 3,100 people across all of our programs.

Key metrics

  • 1,506 individuals and families entered homelessness last year
  • Nearly half were high acuity, meaning that they were at a high risk of dying if they did not get housed
  • The vast majority were 25 to 54 years old
  • Nearly two-thirds of individuals were male— and more than half were white
  • Almost all (86%) of families entering homelessness were headed by women— and nearly half (47%) were Latino


Focus Shifted to Support the War Effort

After Pearl Harbor, the work of Travelers Aid shifted to help the war effort in response to a 50% increase in requests for assistance from sailors, soldiers, defense workers and Marines. In 1943 alone, we received 57,626 requests for assistance. When the war ended, Travelers Aid received citations from both the Navy and the War Department, as well as countless thank you letters from servicemen who said that they were proud to fight for “…a country with an organization like Travelers Aid.”

Meet Emma and Tomás

A second chance at life.

The day that Emmy and Tomás* showed up at Crossroads was very hot and humid. They'd been staying on a friend’s pullout in a 3rd floor Providence apartment, but it did not have any air conditioning.

“It was like trying to sleep in an oven,” said Tomás. “We wanted to buy an air conditioner, but we didn’t have enough money. Emmy couldn’t take it anymore, so we left, even though we didn’t have any place else to go.” Fortunately, Crossroads was able to find the pair a room at their Couples Shelter. It wasn’t air conditioned either, but their new room was shaded by a large maple tree and felt much cooler. It even had a queen-sized bed—a real bed—instead of a pullout.

“Tomás and Emmy both had serious, untreated mental health issues,” according to Jill, their Crossroads case manager, who quickly connected the couple with outside mental health services. “Tomás was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD and we found out that Emmy had been abused as a child. That trauma made it very difficult for either of them to hold down a job and lead productive lives.”

But having a safe and stable place to stay really helped. With continued encouragement from their case manager, the couple kept regular appointments with their mental health providers and Tomás started taking medication for the first time. “I finally felt like I could think straight,” he reported. Once she was feeling better, Emmy decided to enroll in Crossroads’ Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training. “The day I graduated was one of the proudest days of my life,” Emmy said with a big smile, her brown eyes welling up with tears. “Tomás brought me flowers and I felt like I had finally accomplished something.”

Within a few short weeks of graduation, Emmy was offered a job at a local hospital where she still proudly works today, delivering patient meals, changing bed linens and taking people’s blood pressure. “I really like helping people,” she added.

“When Emmy signed up for that training, I knew I had to do something,” said Tomás, who hadn’t been able to graduate from high school.

So, with a little help from Crossroads and a lot of hard work, Tomás earned his high school equivalency diploma, took classes on how to job interview and eventually landed a job at a local call center, which paid him a decent salary.

“Emmy and Tomás are such an inspiration,” said Jill. “Six months after they walked through our front door, homeless and with few prospects, we were able to move them out of shelter and into a home of their own. My coworkers and I cried when we handed them the keys to their new apartment.”

According to Jill, Crossroads helped the couple out with a few months of rental assistance and provided them a few necessities like pots and pans and bed linens. But today, Emmy and Tomás are both working, financially independent and making the most out of their second chance at life.

*Names and photo have been changed to protect client identity.


The Modern Era of Homelessness Began

Sparked by a deep recession, lack of affordable housing, and drastic cutbacks in Federal housing funds, homelessness hit crisis levels in Rhode Island. In response, we evolved rapidly into a multifaceted agency offering 24/7 services, mobile medical services, runaway youth programming, and education and employment services.

What We Do Today

Through the decades, Crossroads continued to evolve its programs and services to meet the needs of the community it serves. Today, we are the leading provider of housing and services to the homeless in Rhode Island.

Key programs and services include the following:

  • Diversion: Preventing at-risk people from becoming homeless in the first place
  • Emergency Shelter: Providing a hot shower, a healthy meal and a safe place to stay while helping people end their homelessness
  • Education & Employment: Giving people the tools they need to help themselves & ultimately achieve self-sufficiency
  • Rapid Housing: Helping those who only need short-term assistance
  • Permanent Supportive Housing: Long-term housing & supports for those who need help the most
  • Affordable Housing Development: Creating more housing that people with very low incomes can afford


Travelers Aid Rebranded as Crossroads Rhode Island

The agency moved into our current headquarters at 160 Broad Street in Providence and took over ownership and management of 192 permanent supportive housing units within the building.

Crossroads Financials

"In 2019, Crossroads raised or earned approximately $13.2 million in revenue,” said Merelise Hitte, Chief Financial Officer. “Expenses for our operations, housing, shelters and services and programs totaled $13 million. As part of our eff orts to ensure that we’re around for another 125 years, we are also pleased to report that our endowment totaled $539,816 last year, a 12% increase from 2018.” Crossroads relies on a variety of sources to fund our housing, shelters, services and programs.

Funding sources include:

  • Federal, State & City Funding
  • Corporate, Community and Family Foundations
  • Individual and Corporate Fundraising
  • Earned Revenue (Rents, Program Fees, Endowment Interest, etc.)



In a sweeping philosophical shift, Crossroads implemented Housing First in 2014. Unlike traditional shelter models, Housing First moves those with the greatest needs out of homelessness and into housing as soon as possible. Once stabilized in housing, Crossroads continues to provide the services and support necessary to help individuals and families achieve self-sufficiency

Thank You

We appreciate your continued support

We are so grateful to the many generous corporate partners, charitable foundations, private donors and corporate volunteers who allow us to end homelessness for thousands of Rhode Islanders each year. We literally couldn’t do what we do without you. Thank you for your continued support.