July 1, 2013

There’s No Place Like Home

by Joshua Jackson

Joshua Jackson ’16 is an Impact Providence intern this summer working for the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless.

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After countless hours of lobbying, we returned to the State House for the last hurrah. To our surprise, we were at the State House for 12 hours one day and then an additional 7 hours the next day. We left that final night knowing we just accomplished a major feat. (Photo by Sun Park)

With the Rhode Island budget finally settled as of this past week, the Rhode Island Coalition for Homeless (RICH) can take a moment to celebrate our victory. Since starting this internship, my fellow interns, the staff at RICH, and I have worked tirelessly to receive funding for rental vouchers and winter shelters in the Rhode Island state budget. Although we hit a few roadblocks, we quickly worked to climb right over them. In the end we did acquire $750,000 for rental vouchers, which will help place individuals experiencing homelessness into affordable housing. The legislators also decided to place money into renovating a shelter in Rhode Island; although this decision was strongly discouraged, it just goes to show that sometimes the individuals in charge will do what they feel fit, rather than what the experts advise.

But this is a celebratory post, about the amazing triumph of the many individuals working to end homelessness in Rhode Island. In a collective effort we made phone calls to constituents and legislators, designed informative fliers and lobbied constantly to encourage the Senate, General Assembly, and Leadership to consider our bills in the budget to be debated. The awesome news is that our bills, although less than what we originally asked for, were placed in the budget without a debate and were eventually approved. This is a huge victory for Rhode Island and is a huge step in the right direction. As long as we continue to garner support for rental vouchers and other methods, we can provide affordable and sustainable housing for all of those in need. If we keep taking these steps, we can accomplish our mission of ending homelessness.

Receiving funding for rental vouchers was a great success, but you all are probably wondering about what happened to the winter shelters. Unfortunately, with cuts being made throughout the budget, winter shelters was one part that was cut. This was extremely disappointing, but the folks at RICH are passionate and perseverant and will continue to fight to help all of those in need of homes. Our next step is to pursue other avenues to find funding to ensure that winter shelters remain open for all of those in need. Just think of our old friend, Blizzard Nemo, who acts as a harsh reminder of the severe winter weather in Rhode Island. We’ll continue to work to ensure the safety and well-being of all, regardless of housing status.

The State House session may be over, but we will continue to thrive to end homelessness. We want families, children, individuals - everyone - to have a place to call home. After all, there’s no place like home.

My question for all of you reading: Unfortunately, the problem of homelessness is overlooked by many legislators. How can we convince the legislators of the Ocean state to become strong allies in the fight against homelessness?

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