The Diocese of Rhode Island is joining an interfaith effort, coordinated by the state’s Department of Housing, to significantly increase the number of beds available to people living without shelter this winter.
Bishop Nicholas Knisely attended a press conference last Friday at which Governor Dan McKee and Secretary of Housing Stefan Pryor outlined efforts to increase the number of beds available to Rhode Island residents who lack housing to 1,370 from last winter’s total of 789.
“I’m delighted to be involved in this initiative, not just because it’s helping the homeless, but because it’s a new model of collaboration between government and faith organizations,” Bishop Knisely said. “Homelessness is a complicated and multifaceted challenge. Responding to it and making a real impact is going to require creative and collaborative initiatives — like this.”
The state’s efforts include adding 318 beds to its shelter system, deploying rapidly deployable, temporary shelters of 30-45 beds known as pallet shelters, and developing a network of emergency hubs that can be opened when weather conditions dictate. These shelters would be available overnight to Rhode Island residents who lacked shelter or those whose homes had lost heat or power.
At the press conference, Pryor thanked Bishop Knisely “for already working with possibilities within the bishop’s constellation of Episcopal churches,” to develop the emergency network.
“These sites are expected to be a partnership between local government, churches and social service agencies,” the bishop said. “The congregations will be helping to fill gaps around the state where there isn’t sufficient shelter right now.”
A recent report by the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness estimated that more than 1,660 people will be without shelter in Rhode Island this winter.
Other faiths and denominations are also active in the effort to provide shelter for those facing a winter living outdoors. Joining Bishop Knisely at the press conference were Monsignor Albert Kenney of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Iman Abdul-latif Sackor of the Islamic Center of Rhode Island, Imam Mufti Ikram Haq of Masjid al-Islam and Rabbi Sarah Mack of Temple Beth-El.
“I’m glad to that there has been such a broad response across denominations and faiths here in the state,” Knisely said. “Rhode Island is small enough that many of us know each other and when we were invited to be part of this initiative, we could build on those existing relationships to coordinate our plans effectively.”