As temperatures sink in Rhode Island, the state’s homeless population is especially vulnerable. Thermometers are expected to hover well below freezing through the weekend.
On any given night there around 800 people living on the streets, according to the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. And when temperatures plummet below freezing that makes for a deadly combination. In extreme cold, frostbite can set in in minutes. Jim Ryczek is the coalition’s director. “The sobering news is that we found that one-third of our homeless population live outside on a regular basis. So with the cold snap approaching, and the weather being what it is, that is a huge concern,” said Ryczek
Ryzcek said days and nights like these put a great strain on the state’s shelters. “To be clear, our shelter capacity is nowhere near 800. We have providers that roll out mats, and get the blankets out, and put people wherever they can possibly fit.”
Ryzcek says the answer is not to expand the shelter system, but increase the availability of affordable permanent housing.