Affordable housing and homeless advocates boldly claim Rhode Island will be the first state in the country to end veteran and chronic homelessness as they proudly announce their selection to participate in the national Zero: 2016 Campaign; which sets to the goal to end veteran and chronic homelessness in the next two years in selected communities.
Spearheaded by Community Solutions, Zero: 2016 is a rigorous follow-up to the organization’s 100,000 Homes campaign that housed over 105,000 homeless Americans in under four years. Rhode Island is one of five states (Connecticut, New Mexico, Utah and West Virginia are the other four) that were were selected to participate as full states. Also selected were 67 communities in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Combined, the group includes more than 234 housing authorities, local government entities, nonprofit organizations and community agencies; all are committed to ending homelessness among their veterans and chronically homelessness in their communities.
“All the work we have done for the past five years was to get us to this exact moment in time, to the place where we stand today – at the point of our state becoming the first state in the country to end veteran and chronic homelessness,” stated Jim Ryczek, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. “Thanks to the General Assembly that has begun to fund Opening Doors Rhode Island, our State’s place to end homelessness, our service providers and constituents who have wholeheartedly embraced the re-tooling of our homeless system, and our community partners in philanthropy, business and in the faith communities; we are ready to do this!”
The first step for the local campaign is Registry Week, the most extensive collection of data on the homeless ever conducted in Rhode Island. Over 450 volunteers will blanked the state in three nights; from Monday, November 10th through Wednesday, November 12th; from Westerly to Woonsocket, to collect data on every homelessness Rhode Islander. The homeless system will use the information collected during Registry Week to develop by-name files on every homeless person in the state. This will then enable quick and correct housing and service placement. Support for Rhode Island’s Registry Week and Zero: 2016 has come from the United Way of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Foundation, and Rhode Island Housing as part of their commitments to tackling the issue of homelessness in Rhode Island.
Dr. Erich Hirsch, Professor at Providence College and the Chair of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Committee, applauded the Registry Wekk stateing, “This is the first time ever, in the history of collecting data on homelessness in Rhode Island, that we will have such a complete picture of homeless Rhode Islanders. The data collected will enable to prioritize the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders and match them with the appropriate services and housing options.”
“Ending homelessness in our state is not a pipe dream,” added Ryczek. “It is a reality that is within our reach, within our lifetime. We must continue to summon the political and public will to make it so.”