Darryl Kosciak, the brand new executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, had an interesting welcome to his new job, and state, earlier this week when Joe Paolino formally announced his idea to transform part of St. Joseph’s Hospital in South Providence into 140 transitional housing apartments for homeless and indigent Rhode Islanders.
I asked him what he thought of Paolino’s proposal and the ensuing public relations disaster that ensued when residents and legislators showed up in vociferous opposition.
“It was obviously something to behold. As a newcomer to Rhode Island (less than 15 days on the job) I am hopeful that this is not how affordable housing development typically occurs,” Kosciak said in an email. “On both sides of this equation. If it is, our work to end homelessness in this state is really in trouble since the only solution to homelessness is housing.”
He praised Paolino for his idea, but chided the approach.
“I applaud Mr Paolino as business man who wants to be a part of the solution. Most business leaders across the country will rail against people experiencing homelessness using all sorts of coded language and other means. When asked to be a part of the solution, they typically scatter quicker than a teenager when asked to shovel the drive way! Joe worked to increase his knowledge and understanding of the solutions to this issue (still a work in progress) over the course of the past year or so and wanted to be a part of the solution. I just wish he had approached this differently. I am hopeful he listened and learned and will take the time to work with the community (as he clearly said he would). I also hope that so much damage (not only in this instance, but over the course of many years from what I heard at the press conference) has occurred that there cannot be some resolution found to move this affordable housing forward in a way that is a win for our efforts to end homelessness and a win for the community to be treated with respect and dignity all neighborhoods deserve.”
South Providence residents and legislators say too many of the city’s efforts to address homelessness already occur in their neighborhood and that transitional housing should be spread around the city.