With the constant refrain of Theres No Place Like Home, advocates urged the legislature to support H5554 and S494, companion bills that would allocate $3.25 million for rental vouchers and the emergency winter shelter costs.
Additionally, they called upon the legislature to address the troubling trend of yearly increases in homelessness by adequately funding Opening Doors Rhode Island, the states plan to end homelessness.
Dr. Eric Hirsch, Professor at Providence College and Chair of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Committee, released the recent Point-in-Time numbers and the 2012 Annual Statistics. Both measurements showed a 10% increase from the previous year. The Annual Statistics also showed increases from 2011 to 2012 for children, families and veterans entering homelessness.
The Point-in-Time Count, which is conducted every January, is a tally of who is homeless on a given night and provides a snapshot of who experiences homeless throughout the year. The Point-in-Time Count is a one-day, statistically reliable, unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families in the state.
This years Point-in-Time Count found:
10.5% increase in number of homeless from 1,277 in 2012 to 1,411 in 2013
The Annual Statistics also found increases across the board including:
10.4% increase in the overall number of homeless from 4,410 in 2011 to 4,868 in 2012
12.6% increase in homeless families from 602 in 2011 to 678 in 2012
16.9% increase in homeless children from 1,092 in 2011 to 1,277 in 2012
23% increase for homeless veterans from 243 in 2011 to 299 in 2012
Hirsch credits the economy and unaffordable housing market for the increase in homelessness in Rhode Island stating, It is actually, tragically simple, the need has grown while resources have dwindled. Those Rhode Islanders that are still experiencing the economic downturn, the underemployed and the unemployed, have begun to run out of resources and that, combined with cut backs in state and federal funding, leads to more homelessness.
Hirsch referenced the recent report, Out of Reach 2013, released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition which shows that affordable rental housing remains out of reach for average Rhode Islanders and that our state continues to have one of the highest rental costs in the country, coming in at number seventeen.
Out of Reach found that in Rhode Island, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $945 (up from $924 in 2012). In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, a household must earn $3,151 monthly or $37,813 annually.
We hear so much about economic recovery but if you look at our numbers you can honestly say Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness arent seeing any recovery, stated Jim Ryczek, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. Sadly, the states financial response has not kept up with the need. In the past five years we have witnessed a 24% increase in Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness but the funding has not kept up with the need. This legislative session we can reverse that trend and begin to address the problem by supporting this important legislation.
Despite the troubling numbers, advocates were quick to point to a legislative solution to address the current crisis and provide relief to a system that keeps Rhode Islanders stuck in homelessness legislative bills H554 and S494 companion bills that would allocate $3.25 million for rental vouchers and to address the emergency winter shelter situation.
After hearing the need from speakers ranging from those experiencing homelessness to the bill sponsors, homeless prevention advocates made visits to Representatives and Senators urging them to address the need and vote to support H5554 and S494.
Advocates also urged legislators to stay committed and focused on Opening Doors Rhode Island, the states plan to end homelessness and to make sure that it continues to be implemented and fully funded.
Opening Doors Rhode Island outlines a plan that significantly transforms the provision of services to Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness. Consistent with the new federal
plan to end homelessness, the plan seeks to sharply decrease the numbers of people experiencing homelessness and the length of time people spend homeless.
The plan proposes to finish the job of ending chronic homelessness in five years and to prevent and end all homelessness among Veterans in the state in the same time period. It also outlines strategies to substantially decrease the numbers of homeless families and young people and to end this homelessness in ten years. Finally, the plan will reduce all other homelessness in the state and establish the framework for system transformation that will reduce the numbers of people who experience homelessness for the first time.
At the end of the day we want all the states Dorothys to find their way home and to have the opportunity to realize that, indeed, there is no place like home, lamented Ryczek.