Advocates for homeless protest, disrupt annual tree lighting

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — During the annual Rhode Island State House tree lighting ceremony, dozens of advocates for the homeless protested for increased housing options as winter nears.

This was the first ceremony held indoor since the beginning of the pandemic.

Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Dan McKee announced roughly 350 new shelter beds this year will be housed at the Cranston Street Armory in Providence.

“It is going to allow us to create overflow for individuals who might need shelter,” said McKee. “Tonight, we have the Christmas lighting, and one of the reasons we are doing this interview was to invite people to come down– to let everybody know that everybody is welcome, including those individuals who are outside our front door at the state house.”

The Department of Housing estimate 1,000 beds will be needed this winter.

Those living outside the State House, however, were frustrated the new initiative still falls short of the demand.

“Where’s all the fundings?” asked one protester named Jessie. “Everyone is freezing out here. It’s getting to be wintertime. It’s going to be freezing cold with snow outside. What are they doing out here for the people that are in front of their front lawns right now?”

The governor and his administration said they are still looking into more options for this winter to meet the demand.

Another protester named Serenity asked, “What if this was his child, or Jesus? Maybe he would make Jesus live in a tent.”

McKee said the 24-hour warming station is set to open in a few weeks and should last through April 15.

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