On Oct. 6, Crossroads Rhode Island, a nonprofit organization that provides housing services to individuals within the state experiencing homelessness, broke ground on a new permanent supportive housing development at 94 Summer St. The new housing development will include 176 apartments for formerly unhoused adults, according to the Crossroads website.
Unlike shelters, which are meant to be temporary housing solutions, permanent supportive housing is a “model that combines low-barrier affordable housing, health care, and supportive services to help individuals and families lead more stable lives,” according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
The 94 Summer St. unit will feature one-bedroom studios with a private bathroom, kitchen and living area for each resident. To facilitate community within the development, each building floor will also have a common gathering space. Residents can also use the outdoor green space the property offers.
Residents of the new development will also have access to on-site case management and other support services to help them maintain their new homes. The building will “include accessibility and usability features for people with a wide range of physical and cognitive abilities,” the project page reads.
Crossroads R.I. predicts that nearly all Summer Street tenants will be Providence residents, most of whom are tenants from other Crossroads housing units who are now eligible to live in a renovated and updated living situation, according to the organization’s website.
“94 Summer St. is, in my opinion, the most impactful, affordable and supportive housing underway in Rhode Island,” Crossroads CEO Karen Santilli said at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the development project, NBC 10 News previously reported.
A wide range of housing officials across private, public and nonprofit sectors, including Crossroads staff and Gov. Dan McKee, attended the ceremony.
“We are building 176 apartments, 176 homes and 176 reasons for hope," Santilli said. Other speakers also emphasized their optimism for the project’s ability to support the unhoused community in Providence.
According to a study prepared for the Rhode Island Foundation, the state has one of the slowest per capita rates of housing production in the country, ranking 38th in the nation over the last decade. HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University also recently released a 2023 Housing Fact Book that found that the number of people in Rhode Island experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island has increased by 72% since 2019, The Herald previously reported.
As part of its 2023 Point-In-Time Count, which counts the number “of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in a single night in January,” The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness found that 1,810 people were without housing.
“Most folks who are making a meager salary cannot afford to live in our cities with or without roommates,” Senator Tiara Mack ’16 (D-RI) told The Herald.
In 2022, The National Low Income Housing Coalition found that “full-time Rhode Island workers” needed to make “at least $24.32 an hour to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in the state.” Currently, Rhode Island minimum wage is $13. As of April 2023, almost half of all Rhode Island renters were cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
“This achievement is monumental and signifies everything. Having a roof over their heads (and) knowing they will sleep here every night in their own bed surrounded by their personal belongings will make an immeasurable difference in their lives,” said State Representative Grace Diaz (D-Providence). Tenants “will experience security enabling them to concentrate on all the other aspects of their lives they deserve,” she added.
According to their website, Crossroads believes that people can only tend to needs such as finding employment, managing their finances and addressing mental health concerns once they have found housing.
Juan Espinoza, communications and development manager for The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness, said that while 94 Summer St. is a Crossroads development, he understands the project as a manifestation of all the hard work housing justice organizations have spearheaded throughout the city. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort,” he said.
In addition to the development at 94 Summer St., Crossroads plans to renovate its former residences, including its main property on 160 Broad St. The organization also hopes to create Rhode Island’s first permanent supportive apartment unit designed “specifically for medically vulnerable adults experiencing homelessness by 2025.”