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Homeless Advocate Jim Ryczek: 12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Moving an agenda forward on behalf of Rhode Island's homeless residents: RI Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Jim Ryczek.

In a year when many cities tightened their laws against homeless members in their communities, Rhode Island passed a Homeless Bill of Rights in June of 2012 that is being called a national model. Behind that victory as well as in the trenches of providing services for Rhode Island's homeless community is Jim Ryczek.

The executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless (RICH) says the the Bill of Rights, a major goal for 2012, was designed to be enforceable, so that homeless people who believe they've been discriminated against, will now have the right to sue. Further, it was designed to declare that homeless people have the same rights as everyone else. In sum, the law prohibits governments, police, healthcare workers, landlords or employers from treating homeless people unfairly because of their housing status.

"Historic legislation"

In striking contrast to cities such as Denver, CO, and Berkeley, CA, that have recently passed tough laws that edge toward criminalizing homelessness, Rhode Island's Homeless Bill of Rights is "historic legislation," according to Heather Johnson, a civil rights attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

But Ryzcek isn't sitting still on this victory. RICH's most recent Winter Shelter Assessment Point in Time Count taken on December 12, 2012, revealed that there were 996 Rhode Islanders homeless on that day--146 more Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness than last year's September count of 850 found. RICH calls this "a dangerous tipping point."

"When it happens once it is a crisis," says Ryczek. "But when it continues to happen every year it is a trend, and is evidence of a failure of public policy. Our Governor, and all our elected officials, must address this trend with structural long-term solution, not an every-year band-aid."


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