By: Melissa Toupin
Rhode Island shelters are seeing record numbers of homeless people this year. Now there's a renewed push to get the state to increase the number of beds and the amount of aid.
"The fact is the numbers have continued to and nothing has happened to change it," said Michelle Wilcox, Chief Operating Officer of Crossroads Rhode Island.
Record number of Rhode Islanders are turning to area shelters this year. A recent count by the RI Coalition for the Homeless shows that as of December 12, 2012 996 Rhode Islanders are homeless. Here's the breakdown:
The state's shelter bed capacity is 577, which leaves the system at a deficit of 419 beds. Advocates are demanding the state address the shortage and are calling upon the Governor to come up with long term solutions by including adequate funding in his upcoming budget for the state's plan to end homelessness.
"We're barely covering utilities. We're getting food donated from the rescue mission or other places. We're not asking for a lot of money. We're asking to keep people alive," said Eileen Hayes, Co-Chair of the Emergency Shelter Task Force during a press conference this morning at the House of Hope men's shelter at Harrington Hall in Cranston.
Christopher Duphiney knows the pain first hand. He's been living at a shelter since he was laid off from his job 7 months ago.
"Within a month my funds ran out. I had an apartment I
couldn't afford any more. It was expensive," said Duphiney.
Funding for the state's shelters are meant to last until April, but because so many people are looking for housing, they anticipate money will run out by mid-January.
Advocates say a major factor working against people is the economy. Nearly 40% of Rhode Islanders don't make enough money to afford rent here.
"It's very simple. The state needs to provide rental
subsidies and other operating subsidies. If they do that we can solve the
problem," said Dr. Eric Hirsh, Professor of Sociology at Providence College and Chair of the Homeless Management Information System Committee.
ABC6 reached out to Governor Chafee for comment. So far there has been no response from his office.