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Residents of the Charles Street Tent Encampment given eviction order
"The truth is that there is no shelter available for most of the residents facing eviction. They will find someplace new to pitch their tents, only to face eviction again at some future date..."
Residents of the Charles Street Tent Encampment in Providence were visited by uniformed Providence Police Officers for the second time in two weeks, this time to be issued an order to vacate the property. As I arrived, I saw a woman, currently unhoused, leaving in tears. I was told that this was the latest in a series of evictions she has faced over the years while experiencing homelessness.
Police were finishing up and getting into their cars as I approached. I talked with one officer:
Steve Ahlquist: What's going on?
Police Officer: The owner of the property here, through his attorney, provided the city with a vacate order for these people to vacate, so we provided each one of them with a vacate/trespass order that they're on private property and they would have to vacate by Monday.
This encampment is separate from the other one. The other one is on city property and state property. They got the same thing.
Steve Ahlquist: So those on state property are getting the same vacate order?
Police Officer: We just gave them the same vacate order.
The company wanted them out by a reasonable time so we figured Monday was a reasonable time.
On Monday we'll come with all the services we can provide. We offered to store their belongings. We'll take their belongings over to North Burial Grounds until they shelter. Crossroads is here and they are trying to find them shelters so hopefully that happens.
See previous coverage here:
The notification being handed out to the residents was unusual because rather than a formal notice of eviction signed by a public official, it was a copy of the letter from the aptly named Savage Law Partners LLP, the lawyer representing the owner of the property, to Providence Mayor Brett Smiley’s Chief of Staff, Emily Crowell.
Police took down the names and dates of birth of the people they spoke to at the encampment. A person at the scene, who is not a resident or an outreach worker, provided me with the following video of the police visit:
"For several months, we have expressed our concern for the individuals living at this encampment, dangerously close to the highway," said Providence Mayor Brett Smiley in a prepared statement. "That's why we've partnered with the state and local providers to provide medical care, medical supplies, harm reduction services, behavioral health supports, and housing opportunities to those at this encampment site, whenever possible. This site continues to pose risks to those in the area, with several fires and floods in the last several weeks, which is why we will work towards clearing this site this coming Monday. When the private and state-owned land have been cleared, we will work with city and state vendors to collect any garbage or debris and ensure the site is safe and secure."
Despite Mayor Smiley’s statement, the truth is that there is no shelter available for most of the residents of the Charles Street Tent Encampment. They will pack up their belongings and find someplace new to pitch their tents, only to face eviction again at some future date.
According to the state’s Homeless Management Information System, there were 348 individuals forced to spend at least one night in a place not meant for human habitation in the two weeks ending on June 30. Towns and cities such as West Warwick, Warwick, Cranston, Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, and now Providence, have chosen to approach this problem through raids to clear encampments without making a real effort to meet the shelter and housing needs of their residents.