Councilor questions decision to move homeless into North Smithfield motels

Councilor Claire O'Hara

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.”

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  1. Just another attack on the middle class. This is a terrible idea that will have terrible consequences.

    • This statement cracks me up, why? Because how many young females do we see enter the borders pregnant, get on on our programs here, stay pregnant, breed like rabbits, and live a life eternally on welfare. And the kids get free health care until age 18, free food, free or low housing, free medical. All paid for by the hard working. Not to say all are like that, but I sure do see many….so they are not males, all males….lol.
      Require them to work in exchange for the freebies…..make it tougher.

  2. So…. she’s upset that a program that helps people, is helping people in need. CCA has been in cooperation with North Smithfield for how long now? They’ve only been helping people for the last 125 years or more.

    Warwick will house people in about 100 rooms in one location, has come up with a plan, has met with the governor and asked questions, and even provided factual data. How were they able to do this about 2 weeks ago, how were they more informed when the governor told everyone at the same time. They originally said no as well, but was able to work with the governor. Was the TA not informed about this about 2 weeks ago, did he not tell the council about it? Sounds like a communication breakdown, and even the best plan is terrible if there is no communication.

    There was always a chance this was going to happen, which if people read the news should not have come to a surprise, back in March when they announced they were going to close the armory. Is it the correct solution? Probably not. Is there still an underlying issue that has caused the issue, that hasn’t been fixed yet? Yes, I don’t claim to have the answers either. CCA has a food specialist that provides food to their clients, through the Food Bank. That answer and other questions asked are all readily available on their website. It’s not happening too fast, unless you were caught not up to date on current affairs.

    I do offer a little bit of insight, maybe if the previous council accepted the police dept budget increase of 100k instead of declining it, it may have quite possibly allowed an extra patrolman to help out with the calls.

    • That’s pretty low of you and speaks to your character that you assume more police is going to be needed with this event. Are you assuming these homeless people are problems or will cause problems that more police will be needed ??? Why are you stereotyping them before they even arrive?

      Maybe you asked the people down in Warwick who have done this so well like you said – have you asked all the town residents that pay taxes that live near those hotels in Warwick ? About people roaming around all hours of the day, attempting to get into peoples homes, breaking into peoples cars, sleeping in their yards.

      What Councilor O’Hara is upset about is the lack of communication to the town from the state and the potential drain on (our) taxpayer resources. How many kids are going to be enrolled in schools ? It goes on and on. I feel for the folks on Sayles Hill and Iron Mine Hill roads.

      Why don’t you put a few up in your house BM??

      • I’m not the one that said more police was needed, that would be O’Hara. As at the end of the article she said, “We should be compensated for extra time and manpower…” So yes it does speak volumes about how O’Hara views them before they arrive, and I hope that she is wrong about them. Are you sure you’re asking the correct person about the biases, when this article is clearly written that O’Hara said these things? I merely only pointing out the fact that the previous council declined an option to provide funding for a extra patrolman, after it was requested by the police department, which may help ease some of the biases that she has towards them.

        There was enough communication from the state to the cities and towns, as they even delayed the closing of the armory by 2 weeks a month ago. That’s on top of the notice of a month prior to that they would be closing the center. The extra 2 weeks was to ensure proper transferring, and care of these individuals would be provided. Seems like there was enough communication from the state, who dropped the ball though? The writing was on the wall about it for well over a month, as a warming center would close due to it being warmer weather season soon, and they needed care.

        I would not be able to house any individuals, as there is not enough space in my household. My family does however help at the community garden, and when it’s harvest time some goes to local food pantries. So we try to do our part in helping out where we can though.

    • What bothers me after having lived in several states, worked as a licensed nurse, is that our elderly, who have put into the system many yrs over their lifetimes, cannot afford meds, help, clothes, etc, while we keep giving freebies out to others. There is a gray area of care here that I would like to see a better balance of for our elderly. Many younger, able bodied, can work, many just choose not to and that is a major dilemma to weed through. Some know exactly how to work the system….so I can understand her concern. How many, where housed, for how long….and at what cost to the working group over the long term.

      • Ida, agree with you 1000pct here on your comment. Many are younger males that sit and do nothing all day and take handout after handout and work the system like you said!! You’re 100pct right on this.

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