45 pallet shelters — rapidly deployable temporary housing solutions — are set to be built in Providence to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis. The pallet shelters are expected to begin operating by the end of the first quarter of 2024, according to Emily Marshall, chief of information and public relations at the Rhode Island Department of Housing.
Named “ECHO Village” for Emergency COVID Housing Opportunities, the pallet shelters will be located in a state-owned lot on Victor Street.
House of Hope Community Development Corporation and The Rhode Island Department of Housing are partners in the project.
“Creating brick-and-mortar housing takes time, so rapidly deployable temporary housing alternatives such as Pallet is a great way for people to feel dignified and safe until they can obtain permanent housing,” Marshall wrote in an email to The Herald.
“One of the advantages of (pallet shelters) is that you can just take them down, fold them up, and put them in a warehouse,” Eric Hirsch, interim director for the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project, told The Herald.
According to both Hirsch and Marshall, the pallet shelters are meant to act as a temporary solution to the state’s housing crisis. A HousingWorks RI 2023 fact book reported a 72% increase in homelessness and a 370% increase in unsheltered persons since 2019.
In 2022, protestors constructed a pallet shelter at the State House plaza, demanding that pallet shelters be erected before that coming winter.
“We started to do protests initially against the state over two years ago, and definitely we were arguing for the need for pallet shelters because many people don’t want to be in congregate shelters where there might be another 100 people with you in one room,” Hirsch said.
According to an online statement released by House of Hope, each of the new shelters will have screened windows, fire extinguishers, smoke/CO2 detectors, electrical outlets and heating and cooling units. House of Hope also plans to provide other services such as housing application assistance and access to recovery services.
The site will have common bathrooms and shower areas as well as a common meal area, Hirsch said. The ECHO Village will be staffed 24/7 by members from House of Hope and a third-party security firm will provide overnight security, according to Marshall.
Marshall added that “the selected location will meet the needs of the project because of its proximity to transportation, services and amenities and its ease of connection to municipal power, water and sewer.”
According to Hirsch, another benefit of the location is that the lot is state-owned land. “It’s very hard to get cities and towns to agree to use city or townland, and it’s certainly hard to get private property owners to donate land for this kind of thing.”
“There’s been a lot of ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment, and to me, it’s all based on the stereotypes about who’s experiencing homelessness,” said Hirsch. “I really think the stereotypes are the reason why we don’t act.”