Providence city officials plan to create a "day center" where homeless and others in need can seek assistance. Mayor Jorge Elorza made the announcement Thursday, as the city seeks to address complaints about panhandling and drug use in downtown.
“The issues we are addressing today are not unique to Providence," Elorza said. "They are complex and multifaceted, but by coming together as community, we have the opportunity to make lasting change."
The city plans to send out a request for proposals in the coming months. The basic idea is to provide an alternative to downtown streets and parks, particularly during the daytime hours, when many homeless shelters are closed.
In addition to the day center, the city plans to provide funding to the nonprofit Amos House, an organization that offers housing, job training and employment. Other initiatives include working with the Providence Center, an agency focused on addiction treatment and mental health care, and supporting the launch of a new substance abuse center, known as "Emmanuel House."
A group of downtown businesses led by former Mayor Joseph Paolino has asked the city to enforce loitering ordinances and introduce a new measure to discourage panhandling.
But homeless advocates and others have protested those suggestions, saying they serve only to clear parks and sidewalks, violating the First Amendment rights of the poor, and failing to address root causes of the problem.