NORTH SMITHFIELD – Councilor Claire O’Hara this week questioned an initiative by Community Care Alliance to create emergency shelters at two North Smithfield motels to house homeless individuals displaced by the closing of the Cranston Street Armory.
The Woonsocket-based non-profit is reportedly set to open 40 new shelter rooms spread across one hotel in that city, along with two locations on Eddie Dowling Highway; the Travelers Motor Lodge and the Hilltop Inn.
O’Hara said she got multiple calls regarding the plan, noting that it appears no town officials were notified.
“Evidently a Mr. Lessing from a group in Woonsocket volunteered Woonsocket and North Smithfield,” said O’Hara, referencing CCA President and CEO Ben Lessing. “I was aghast.”
“North Providence was asked and they said ‘no.’ Johnston was asked and they said ‘no,'” said O’Hara.
News of the new homeless sites comes as the armory, a Providence-based warming station that reportedly housed around 100 people as of recent counts, closed its doors permanently on Monday, May 15. Additional shelters have been set up in Warwick and Providence, with the North Smithfield locations reportedly set to begin accepting new occupants on Monday, May 22.
Other sites under consideration include vacant cabins on the grounds of Burrillville’s Zambarano hospital, which could become a temporary home for ten families.
“As long as I’ve known them they haven’t been the safest places,” O’Hara said of the two motels. “It’s a very dangerous area. I don’t think it’s well planned It frightens me that it’s too fast. I think people should be made aware of this.”
“I don’t know how they’re going to eat or where they’re going to go, but it’s a very dangerous area,” she added.
The councilor questioned if the town will be compensated for any extra police manpower needed for the businesses.
“The motels on 146 have cost the town, along the way, a few bucks,” she said. “They take a lot of the town’s resources. What is this ask of charity costing our town?”
O’Hara said she spoke to Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and she was not asked about the plan.
“How much does it cost us yearly to service those places?” O’Hara asked. “We should be compensated for extra time and manpower it is costing this town and I have a feeling it will.”