CRANSTON — On Christmas Eve, when Lynn Loveday brought socks and cookies to the homeless men at Harrington Hall, she promised to be back after Christmas. She kept her promise Tuesday, this time bringing the governor and the state’s other newly elected general officers with her, during their first week in office.
Governor Raimondo, Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner visited the state’s largest homeless shelter after volunteers served pizza to the residents, who had numbered 145 the night before. The shelter is listed as accommodating 88 people.
“I love the goal of ending homelessness,” Raimondo said. “Nobody should be homeless.” As a mother of two small children, she said, “It breaks my heart that some moms and dads” can provide only a car or a camp in the woods to house their children.
“We know how to do it,” she said of ending homelessness, both by improving the economy and providing affordable housing. “We have to do all that we can.”
Jim Ryczek, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, which is participating in a national program to end homelessness, said that in November, 500 volunteers surveyed the state’s homeless population, which numbers about 4,440 people.
Based on 855 interviews of single adults, 34 percent said they slept somewhere other than a shelter, Ryczek said. They reported sleeping in such places as a sidewalk, doorway, vehicle, beach, riverbed, park, abandoned building, cemetery and woods. He said 58 percent have been homeless more than two years, that 64 percent had an average of three emergency room visits in the last six months.
He called on those present, officeholders and homeless alike, to sign an endorsement of the goals of Zero: 2016, a campaign to end chronic and veterans homelessness in Rhode Island by the end of 2016, a campaign that Loveday, state vice president of Council 94, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the state’s largest employee union, supports. She was instrumental in convincing the new state officials to come to the shelter Tuesday evening.
Rhode Island is one of five states chosen by the New York-based nonprofit Community Solutions to participate in the national Zero: 2016 campaign. The other states are Connecticut, New Mexico, Utah and West Virginia. Also selected were 67 communities in 30 states and the District of Columbia.