I watched with frustration as Josh Saal stepped down after only a year as Rhode Island’s first-ever housing secretary. Gov. Dan McKee’s office announced last Wednesday that it had …
I watched with frustration as Josh Saal stepped down after only a year as Rhode Island’s first-ever housing secretary. Gov. Dan McKee’s office announced last Wednesday that it had accepted Saal’s letter of resignation. What’s wrong with this scenario?
Saal was scheduled to appear before the House oversight committee but that obviously will not happen now. The lack of leadership on the housing crisis has been clear but what’s worse than that is the lack of caring.
These are our fellow Rhode Islanders who cannot afford apartments because of the out of control cost. The average two bedroom apartment in Rhode Island is $1,500 a month. These are our fellow Rhode Islanders who may have lost jobs during covid and couldn’t afford their homes or rent. These are our fellows Rhode Islanders who may have other mental health issues or drug addictions but that doesn’t mean we ignore them and walk on by.
The General Assembly has allocated $250 million for the housing crisis. We have yet to see a plan from the office of the former housing secretary. We have yet to see a plan from the state with solutions instead of promises. While many tout the $250 million allocated for homelessness, no has yet developed a comprehensive plan.
This situation has gone on for too long. So many want to help but do not have the resources to do so. So many good people and groups are out there fighting for power to help, power that only a few have. Power that should be used to form a plan with Federal, state and municipal leaders across the state. This can only be done by the state, city and federal administrations. During election time, it was a hot issue. Promises were made and not kept.
These are peoples’ lives. The people of Rhode Island have big hearts. I have seen them come out to help during tragedies in other countries by sending food, clothing and giving assistance. We need to have that same compassion for our own people in Rhode Island. It could be your brother, sister, father or family member in a crisis. Many people are a step away from homelessness. The days of sleeping on city hall steps and the State House marble terrace have to end.
Rhode Island can be known for so many good things, our shorelines, restaurants, colleges, and coastal living. It should not be known for an increasing homeless population with no plan.
You cannot continue ignoring an ongoing homeless problem by just allocating money. An experienced planner is needed, someone who isn’t afraid to work with all the parties concerned.
It’s time to check all the egos at the door and find a solution. We all know the homeless problem isn’t a new one. In fact, I remember seeing the homeless when I worked in downtown Providence as a teenager in the 1970’s. The homeless slept on the fire escapes of the old buildings on Westminster mall. But now, it has become more apparent that the homeless population in Rhode Island has grown. There are reminders everywhere we go. And you don’t have to go far to find them.
Some are under freeway passes, some are in wooded landscapes throughout the state, some are on park benches, and some are panhandling on local streets and highways. Amos House has done a wonderful job helping homeless at the Cranston armory, but even they know this is not the solution to a growing homeless population.
I have heard several politicians say, “ This is our time”. I agree, it is your time. Please make the most of it.
Joanne Giannini is a freelance writer and a former State Representative from Providence from (1995-2011).
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