Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee is pumping more money into the state's emergency shelter program to create additional beds amid increased demand.

Rhode Island expands emergency shelter program

(The Center Square) – Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee is pumping more money into the state’s emergency shelter program to create additional beds amid increased demand.

The state Department of Housing said it has awarded $1.4 million to nonprofit groups to fund the addition of 77 new beds in homeless shelters across the state, which will boost the state’s capacity to more than 1,000 beds.

“Rhode Islanders deserve a safe place to sleep at night and expanding our shelter capacity will help ensure we have the resources to support families and individuals who are experiencing homelessness,” McKee said in a statement.

The grant distributions are part of a broader effort to provide emergency shelter amid increased demand, with many individuals and families impacted by the pandemic, mental health and addiction, according to the McKee administration.

A recent report by the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness, estimated more than 1,500 Rhode Islanders are experiencing homelessness this year, with more than 700 waiting for a shelter bed. Most families spend an average of a month waiting for a shelter to become available, according to the nonprofit group.

Earlier this year, the state distributed $4.1 million to create 274 new beds as part of an ongoing effort to expand capacity in the emergency shelter system, according to the McKee administration.

A $5 million plan unveiled in September seeks to expand shelter capacity, specifically for trauma based homeless shelter operations to serve couples, families and individuals.

In October, McKee diverted $9.5 million in federal funds to expand legal services for low-income households facing housing insecurity. The money could be used to prevent evictions, cover the cost of mediation between landlords and tenants, and provide housing counseling.

Money for the expansion of emergency housing programs comes from the state’s share of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, and a state homeless fund.

The McKee administration says it’s also planning to continue its Landlord Challenge Initiative, which provides financial incentives to property owners who are willing to lease a dwelling to an individual or family struggling with homelessness. Landlords can receive a $3,000 signing bonus for offering a one year lease, and $1,000 for each additional unit.

Housing Secretary Josh Saal said while the state is working on long-term solutions to end homelessness by building more “supportive housing units” across the state, there is an immediate need to increase shelter bed capacity.

“Our goal is to work with our provider partners to swiftly get these newly funded beds online, while we continue our efforts of meeting individuals and households where they are and investing in programs and initiatives to prevent homelessness, and when not possible, make it rare, brief and non-recurring,” Saal said.

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