Developer Joseph R. Paolino Jr. has purchased the former St. Joseph Hospital building in South Providence and announced plans Monday to convert part of it into 140 apartments for the homeless.
The former Providence mayor unveiled architectural renderings for the five-story building at Broad and Peace streets that would provide long-term housing for about 300 homeless people and include a fitness center, job training offices, a business center, laundry and kitchen facilities. St. Joseph Health Center, an out-patient clinic, would remain in the building, he said.
Too often we treat government as if it’s our agency for doing good in the world, allowing us to feel like we’ve assigned somebody to addressing problems, so we don’t have to. This is why legislation putting restrictions on these sorts of private activities is detrimental.
Listening to Gene Valicenti interview Paolino Wednesday morning on WPRO, however, something more profound began to come into focus. Using the infamous term “one-stop shopping,” Paolino essentially described a privately initiated version of the progressive vision for society. St. Joseph’s would become a place where government and charitable organizations could take care of everybody: “homeless and veterans and single families and kids.” They would live there and receive social services: “if they need dental care, they need any sort of health care… through Medicaid… a fitness center… family apartments… microloft apartments… and there’ll be activities there for them… if people need clothing…” and so on.
Watch the raw video from Dan McGowan’s WPRI story (the second video here), and one thing is unmistakable: The people in the community don’t see this as a service for them, but as a way for the city to consolidate problems in their neighborhood. The key word in that sentence is “community,” which they see as their home, where they can build their lives independently. That’s what people ultimately want.
Some have faulted Paolino for not preparing appropriately — indeed, he acknowledged as much to Tara Granahan later in the day — but he did us a favor by jumping in. The political approach (the government’s approach) is to encroach, pulling people in little by little, buy-off by buy-off, isolating those who see the threat in what’s happening as they see it, one by one. Paolino also gave a hint about the freedom one gives up accepting the deal of being cared for when he insisted to Valicenti that he would make the property smoke-free inside and out. What other rules might the people who own and run everything in our society impose once we’re all dependent on their generosity?
We’re fortunate to have been granted this preview in a public way.