Advocates working to end homelessness in Rhode Island release their annual report card Thursday looking at Rhode Island’s homeless population. For the second year in a row, the number of homeless declined. Jim Ryczek, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, spoke with Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison to go behind the numbers.

Last month, hundreds of volunteers fanned out across the state to survey the state’s homeless population. They checked shelters, walked the streets and combed the woods; seeking out homeless residents and asking questions about their health and needs. The data were then compiled and analyzed by homeless advocates. Jim Ryczek executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless shared what they found with Rhode Island Public Radio’s Catherine Welch.

In late August, the power was shut off at the River United Methodist Church. The church, in the heart of downtown Woonsocket, was about a thousand bucks in arrears on its electric bill.  The guy from National Grid apologized for doing what he had to do.

Church members, who specialize in doing a whole lot with very little, scrambled to do what they always do.   They took food from freezers and refrigerators and headed to a nearby park to feed hungry people. 

Bucking a national trend, a new report finds Rhode Island saw a drop in homeless school children in the 2012-2013 school year.

The report from the American Institutes for Research National Center on Family Homelessness found 1,849 homeless children in the 2012-2013 school year. That was down from 1,984 homeless children the prior year.

Starting Monday hundreds of volunteers will fan out across the state to take a comprehensive count of the homeless. The goal is to understand their housing needs, and end homelessness in the state by the end of 2016.

They’ll check the shelters, walk the streets, and comb the woods seeking out the homeless, and asking a series of questions about their needs. Once the data are compiled, Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Jim Ryczek will have a grasp on who needs immediate help.

Thanks to legislation that passed the General Assembly, banks in Rhode Island will not be able to evict renters in properties they’ve foreclosed on. That is, unless there’s just cause or until the property has been bought by a new owner. Rhode Island Coalition for the homeless head Jim Ryczek said the new law will protect people who might otherwise have nowhere to go.

“When the economy tanked in 2007-2008, the shelter system saw more than a 300 percent rise in the number of people coming in and naming eviction as one of the issues that caused them to be homeless.”

We’re in for a wild week in the weather department.  The forecast is for rain today with a high of 48. But by tomorrow the high will plunge into the teens.  One population that is most vulnerable during these cold snaps is the homeless.

StoryCorps Comes To Rhode Island

Dec 5, 2013
John Bender / RIPR

Story Corps, the organization that collects the voices and histories of people across the country is in Rhode Island.

It is a chance for homeless residents across the state to tell their story.

In the offices of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, pairs of Rhode Islanders interviewed each other. One of them had experienced homelessness, and they talked about their lives on the streets.

Richard Staples interviewed Don Larson, a man who was homeless when he was 16-years-old.

Flo Jonic / RIPR

A new report finds Rhode Island’s aging homeless population is growing rapidly.  According to Crossroads Rhode Island, the number of aging homeless adults increased 34 percent between 2010 and 2012, whereas total homelessness increased only ten percent. 

Terry Jones has been off the streets for six years but he still pinches himself over his good fortune. Jones, who’s 71-years-old, is a resident of the Harold Lewis House in West Warwick, a home providing single or twin occupancy rooms for disabled, aging homeless adults.

A housing facility for disabled veterans will be dedicated Tuesday afternoon to a fallen Rhode Island Marine.

Seven years ago today, Marine Sgt. Brian St. Germain was riding in a truck across Iraq when it rolled over in a flash flood. The Rhode Island chapter of Operation Stand Down is honoring St. Germain’s life and service, by putting his name on its West Warwick facility for homeless and disabled veterans.

Operation Stand Down’s Tony DeQuattro says this is part of a push that started two years ago to rename all of their facilities after fallen troops. 

As Rhode Island servicemen and women return from the front lines, state officials are searching for better ways to make sure they have the jobs, education and the health services they need to integrate back into civilian life. A new report out of the state senate urges the state to do a better job connecting veterans with jobs and services.

The state counts more than 70,000 veterans living in Rhode Island, and unemployment numbers show they have a higher rate of joblessness than their civilian counterparts.  

Cold weather creates overcrowding in shelters

Jan 25, 2013
Downtown Providence during snowfall
Aaron Read

We’re about to get a slight break from the Arctic cold we’ve been enduring.  Until then, Rhode Island area shelters are bursting at the seams as the homeless seek shelter from single digit temperatures. 

Remembering the homeless who have died

Jan 24, 2013
Stained glass window at Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul
courtesy CathedralProvidence.org

A service was held in Providence Wednesday to honor all the homeless people who died in 2012.
The service was held at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. The names of 44 individuals were read and candles were lit in their memory.  A 45th candle was also illuminated in case they missed anyone.