Metro

HOPE canvasses for affordable housing bond

Student group aims to educate voters on homelessness, housing resources in Rhode Island

By
Staff Writer
Friday, November 4, 2016

Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere — a student group housed in the Swearer Center for Public Service that strives to advocate on behalf of the Rhode Island homeless population — is currently canvassing for the $50 million Housing Opportunity Bond initiative.

The initiative would lead to the creation of an estimated 800 affordable homes and apartments across the state. Students in HOPE are using three Saturdays and Election Day to garner support for the bond and convince people of its importance.

The HOB initiative passed the Rhode Island General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Gina Raimondo June 24. The bond initiative will be on the ballot Nov. 8.

Rhode Island lacks funding for affordable housing compared to its New England neighbors, said Will Farrell, campaign manager for the Yes On 7 campaign, which advocates for the HOB. The bond aims to fix this issue by creating homes that are “affordable (and) sustainable, while also generating about 1,900 jobs,” said Brandon Dale ’17, HOPE community fellow. “It’s all about increasing the access people have to high-quality housing, because high-quality housing basically gives (people) the opportunity to have a sustainable life and better living conditions.”

The bond “is incredibly important  because this bill sets (a) precedent for the Rhode Island legislature about why it’s important to have a set of steady (sources)of income for affordable housing,” Dale said. Increasing affordable housing allows people to have the opportunity to increase their “self-value and ability to care for themselves, which will always pour back into the community,” he added.

LeeAnn Byrne, policy director for the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, echoed this perspective on  the importance of the bill. “A lot of folks recognize in their own lives the issue of housing being affordable,” she said. “Part of the American dream is to have a safe place to live, and I think that’s a message that’s resonating well” with voters.

The relationship between the University, a wealthy institution, and Providence, a city with a high poverty rate, points to why students should take action in supporting the HOB, said Gabe Zimmerman ’17.5, HOPE advocacy chair.  “We can’t just … talk the talk on social justice without going to the community and acting on the words we say.”

Supporting the housing bond is about more than doing the community a service and being good people. It is “paying reparations” for Brown’s presence in Providence, said Chiara Arellano ’20, HOPE Bonner Fellow. This support is especially necessary because the University has “displaced so many populations in Providence,” such as the Cape Verdean community in the Fox Point area, Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman praised the work of HOPE members who are dedicating three Saturdays and Election Day to garner support for the bond.

“A lot of people take shots at Brown for being the college on the top of the hill and not engaging enough with the city of Providence, but (HOPE) is doing great work. And any college student that’s willing to give a Saturday morning to help out with a cause like this deserves a lot of credit.”

HOPE follows the Housing First model, which “provides members of the homeless community with affordable housing up front,” said Lawrence Wang, HOPE advocacy chair. This is especially important as it helps homeless individuals bypass entry standards that have barred “people who have drug issues, alcohol problems or who have families,” he added.