Local study finds 500% increase in homeless sleeping outside

PROVIDENCE, RI – The state's latest homeless census shows a sharp uptick in the number of people living outdoors. It's a consequence of the overcrowded state of shelters.

When the federal government conducted a census of Rhode Island's homeless population at the start of the year it found 28 people living outdoors statewide. A census conducted last week by local volunteers shows the number has more than quintupled to 146.

Jim Ryczek, director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, says these are the people who are unwilling to endure overcrowded shelters where people sleep on mats on the floor. "You can imagine that if you have a capacity of 617 and there are over 1,000 people trying to get into those beds it creates situations where overcrowding and the quality of living is extremely questionable."

Ryczek says the census conducted back in January was obviously an undercount. "Even though we knew that we would find more people we were shocked by the number of folks that we found that were unsheltered across our state. You know there are people living in tents along the West Warwick bike path. There are folks living underneath bridges and in places where they can find any sort of shelter."

The census found roughly one thousand homeless Rhode Islanders living outdoors or in shelters. That's up 22 percent from January.

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