By Jennifer Hawkins and Karen Santilli
There is a housing crisis in Rhode Island, and the number of Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness has increased since the start of the pandemic. Skyrocketing costs for existing housing and decades of insufficient production of affordable housing has resulted in the virtual nonexistence of apartment leasing for less than $800 per month. Inadequate income to afford quality, stable housing is a trauma impacting too many working families and individuals with disabilities, including those experiencing behavioral health illness.
Despite these headwinds, we know that Rhode Island can end homelessness.
That's not an outlandish or even a bold statement. It's a matter of fact. Making homelessness a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience in Rhode Island is an attainable reality, but it will require state leaders and many housing advocates to rethink their approach and show the political maturity to delay gratification a bit beyond the next election cycle.
We need our policy makers and executive leaders to protect important funding to provide emergency shelter when necessary. But that alone is not enough.
As encouraging as it is to see the McKee administration prioritizing housing, the Governor's original budget proposal doesn't do enough to fully address the crisis. Housing experts agree that we need a $500 million investment with a focus on diversion, development, and production. Unfortunately, the administration's budget proposal includes no additional funding for proven diversion programs that prevent homelessness and woefully under-invests in the production of housing for low-income households. Those kinds of investments are essential to avoid a future crisis like the one we face today. These concerns are compounded by the fact that the state has been slow to extend funding for hotel vouchers that can be used to provide temporary shelter for Rhode Islanders while we build permanent housing.
Read the full Boston Globe article here!