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PowerPlayer: Homelessness Advocate John Joyce

Monday, May 28, 2012

 

This week’s PowerPlayer is homelessness prevention advocate John Joyce. Mr. Joyce was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about the state’s homeless situation and what can be done to address the problem.

1) The homelessness problem in Rhode Island seems to be growing in Rhode Island. What are we doing wrong?

Focusing on the short term problems and not addressing the issue for the long term. For example, we focus on the issue in the winter when it gets cold and we focus on sheltering people, but homelessness is a year round problem. We know what needs to be, we know what works, we know how to end homelessness but we haven't been willing to invest the resources needed to do it! The truth is, it is actually cheaper to house Rhode Islanders who are homeless than to allow them to continue to be homeless but despite knowing this we continue to let our fellow Rhode Islanders be homeless - makes no sense!

2) It seems addressing the homelessness issue is kind of life addressing education. Everyone thinks they have an idea on how to fix it, but no one can agree on anything. Is there a right way to get this done?

Actually everyone is on board with the state's plan, Opening Doors Rhode Island. It was a very extensive process to develop and included all key stakeholders, including constituents who know best what needs to be done. Now, if we all would just focus on the State's Plan to End Homelessness we could begin to radically transform how our state deals with the homeless issue. We can become a state that houses its residents who become homeless rather than shelters them.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

I am an outreach worker for the Home Base program at the Providence Center so I don't have a 9 to 5 type of job. I am up usually around 4 or 4:30. Out on the streets by 6 am, I need to be out there when folks are leaving the homeless shelters at 7 am. Every day is different, I am in court somedays, the hospital, soup kitchens, where ever there are people who are homeless. Then at night I am usually back out on the streets, checking in with folks, seeing what people need, helping connect them with resources. Homelessness doesn't sleep and I am on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day!

4) You spend a lot of time at the State House. How responsive is our legislature to your needs?

Mixed, we have some great champions such as Senator Tassoni, who has made this issue a priority and has done an excellent job keeping this issue front and center. And both Speaker Fox and Senate President Paiva Weed were original sponsors of the affordable housing program, NOP (Neighborhood Opportunities Program). But it seems like the fiscal problems we are facing have led legislators to be penny wise and pound foolish - as I said, it is cheaper to house those who are homeless than to have them remain on the street yet we keep living in the short term. Hopefully we can get the legislators to be as excited and focused on the State's Plan to End Homelessness as we are! If so, we could actually be the first state in the country to end homelessness, how cool would that be?

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I used to be a librarian! I worked at the Warwick Public Library in Appanoug.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My dad

Favorite Restaurant: State House Soup Kitchen on Wednesdays and other days, Apsara's Palace on Hope Street

Best Beach: Beavertail in Jamestown

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: Street Lawyer by John Grisham

Advice for the Next John Joyce: Never take things too personal and never forget where you came from

 

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