Homeless advocates urge state to fund more shelter space

PROVIDENCE, RI – Advocates for the homeless are calling on Governor Lincoln Chafee and the legislature to provide more resources for shelter space and affordable housing. They say this winter is shaping up to be every bit as big a crisis as last year's, which was the worst on record.

Rhode Island is running nearly 300 shelter beds short of what it needs this winter, according to a homeless census conducted in mid September. Eric Hirsch, a professor of sociology at Providence College and a longtime homeless advocate, this will create a life or death situation for those living on the streets.

"This will kill people. Mortality rates for people who are homeless are three to four times that of the general population," says Hirsch.

In past years shelter beds have been empty in warm weather months. Not this year says Jean Johnson, operator of Harrington Hall , the state's largest shelter. "In September we hit a high of 113 one night. Our capacity is 88," says Johnson.

In a recent count, advocates found nearly 200 Rhode Islanders living outdoors.

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