Veterans Group Blasts Rhode Island Homeless Coalition
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Operation Stand Down (OSDRI) announced it is revoking its membership with the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, because it says the Coalition's claims that veterans' homelessness is close to ending are "misguided."
On Monday, the Coalition for the Homeless was on hand with state leaders to unveil Veterans for Tomorrow, an affordable housing development on Douglas Avenue in Providence that will provide housing and access to supportive services for veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and includes 20 apartments for veterans earning up to 50 percent of the area median income.
“Recent progress was achieved as part of Zero: 2016, a national campaign for ending homelessness for veterans and the chronically homeless. According to Eric Hirsch, Ph. D. of the Zero: 2016 Campaign, 163 veterans have been connected with housing in Rhode Island since January 2015. About 40 more veterans need access to housing before the state can reach its goal, added Hirsch, a professor at Providence College and Chair of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Committee," said the Coalition for the Homeless.
Meanwhile, Erik Wallin with OSDRI, who just opened a new veterans complex in Johnston, said that “the [Coalition] needs to come out and say that the message that we're nearing the mission is not true. When the Coalition for the Homeless said that we're near the end of veterans homelessness -- that's outlandish and dangerous."
Wallin said that “last year alone, while the ‘Zero 2016 Campaign’ was underway, OSDRI provided rental assistance to 264 veterans, 169 of whom are ‘literally homeless.’ This number does not even include the 64 residents in OSDRI Housing.”
Disputing Numbers, Approaches
OSDRI was founded in 1993 and headquartered in Johnston to help homeless and at-risk veterans secure stable housing.
A new OSDRI building was dedicated on Monday to Thomas “Tom” Poole, a volunteer for Operation Stand Down RI and outspoken advocate in the veteran community who died in a motorcycle accident this summer. The organization also dedicated its entire veterans complex in Johnston to its founder and board chairman Tony DeQuattro, who served in the United States Marine Corps and has been dedicated to public service ever since.
“Two years ago the VA came out with additional funding -- and they targeted continuums of care. Rhode Island was considered a priority state. They attempted to count the number of homeless veterans at shelters, and it was inaccurate. As a result, we were supposed to get $3 million over three years, and we didn’t,” said Wallin. “We need to continue to go to the delegation and get funding. They were at our event, and there's another side to the story. They've always been supportive of our work.”
Wallin said Monday that OSDRI would be withdrawing from the Coalition for the homeless.
"We are disappointed that Operation Stand Down RI has chosen to withdraw from the Coalition. We have valued, and will continue to value, the work they do for veterans, and in particular for homeless veterans,” said Jim Ryczek with the Coalition for the Homeless.
“We disagree strongly with their assertion that highlighting the positive progress our state has made in addressing homelessness among veterans will lead to complacency. In fact, we believe it will do quite the opposite, we believe knowing that we can house homeless veterans and that we have housed 163 homeless veterans since January will inspire Rhode Islanders to keep doing the hard work necessary to reach our mission of housing all our homeless veterans,” continued Ryczek.
"Additionally, it is important to note that OSDRI - RI's statement that the Zero: 2016 campaign is based on only housing chronically homeless veterans is inaccurate," said Ryczek. "The Coalition, and the Zero: 2016 Campaign stands committed to housing all our state's homeless veterans not just those that are chronically homeless. The Coalition proudly stands by our vision of a Rhode Island which refuses to allow any man, woman or child be homeless and we will work tirelessly until we reach that day."
One Veteran's Story
Veteran Cheryl Farias said Monday that she “didn’t know where she would be” without OSDRI -- and that she didn't think she would have wound up homeless.
Farias, who entered the service at 17 and left four years later after getting pregnant, said that she had trouble getting housing when she moved to Rhode Island with custody of her teenage grandson - until she found Operation Stand Down.
“There’s so many people out there that aren't being helped,” said Farias. “We’ve lost a couple of people, they'd do more for me than people would, and they were at the end of what they could take. It’s bad enough to be hurt in war, they come back, and it's sad when our own homeland will do more for people who come here from other countries but won't do for the people who’ve fought for the country.”
“I came from Virginia [last year], and I was supposed to get housing, but then the state told be because I had full custody I wasn’t eligible. We lived at a hotel for $30, $40 a night, $20 more on weekends,” said Farias. “I went through all the money I had.”
“I left Thompson Middle School one day, and saw Operation Stand Down,” said Farias. “I met Ernie [Parveo], and Brian Sullivan. I was always told I wasn’t entitled to benefits, but I had my DD214, I had an honorable discharge. Ernie helped me out, he had more info than you would believe. They got me housing, they put down a security deposit and first month’s rent."
"With [welfare], all they did was take away from me, told me that I exceeded the limit for this and that. If it wasn’t for Operation Stand Down, I would have lost custody of my grandson. They helped me when no one else would," said Farias.
Related Slideshow: The 10 Most Politically Powerful at RI State House
#10 - Sen. Da Ponte
The Senate Finance Chairman pushed hard in 2014 for corporate tax reform -- and combined reporting -- and was recently reappointed to his fourth term at the helm of the committee that vets the state's budget. With House Speaker Mattiello's talking about eliminating the state income tax on social security, a budget deficit and the prospect of diminishing gaming revenue, Da Ponte will have his work cut out for him chairing the powerful Senate committee.
#9 - Rep. DeSimone
One of the most powerful political players in Providence, the Majority leader wields his influence at the state house as part of Speaker Mattiello's team. Serving in the chamber since 1992, DeSimone rose to his current position with the ouster of former Speaker Gordon Fox in 2014. He will be a pivotal player at the State House for the City of Providence (and new Elorza administration), as the state grapples with a projected $200 million budget deficit, and Providence needs a strong advocate to appeal for what it can.
#8 - Bob Goldberg
The former Minority Leader continues his position as one of the state's top lobbyists, representing a wide range of clients that last year included Lifespan, GTech, Johnson and Wales, and CVS Health, to name a few. Year in, year out, Goldberg -- who is married to RI Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg -- parlays his State House knowledge and connections for his well-funded clients, who in the past have included Twin River when it successfully pushed for table games on the ballot in 2012.
(Goldberg pictured at right.)
#7 - Bill Murphy
The former Speaker of the House continues to wield unparalleled influence as a lobbyist and behind-the-scenes king maker. While he last served as the state's most powerful elected official until 2010, Murphy's ability to exert control at the State House was evidenced by backing now-Speaker Mattiello when the battle to replace Gordon Fox took place. Murphy's lobbying clients range from the corrections officers to payday lending to Twin River.
#6 - Sen. Paiva Weed
The Senate President, who has been at the chamber's de facto top post since 2008, faced a strong challenge this past election season from Newport's Mike Smith, who had been an outspoken opponent against a table games expansion at Newport Grand -- a decision which Paiva-Weed ultimately came to following the rejection of a host agreement by the Newport City Council. Paiva Weed in her opening address of this year's General Assembly session promised to make jobs and the economy her top priorities, followed closely by education. With the school construction moratorium schedule to expire in May, watch to see how Paiva-Weed works with the House and Raimondo administration to address the burgeoning infrastructure needs.
#5 - Sen. Ruggerio
The Senate Majority leader was first elected to the chamber in 1984, after four years in the House, and was Senate majority whip from 2003 to 2010. An administrator for the New England Laborers Labor Management Co-op Trust, Ruggerio's labor ties have helped cement his position of power in the Senate. Despite two arrests, Ruggerio has emerged relatively unscathed, advancing the legislation establishing the I-195 Redevelopment Commission, and pushing for increased parking in downtown Providence by the Garrahy judicial complex
#4 - David Cruise
Governor Raimondo's newly chosen Legislative Director should prove to be much more than that. While Raimondo tapped former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley staffer Stephen Neuman to be her Chief of Staff, the out-of-towner might bring in a fresh perspective, but Cruise knows the lay of the land. Having a Rhode Island political resume that includes serving as a State Senator, Governor Sundlun's Chief of Staff, and top roles at the RI Resource Recovery Corporation and as a traffic court magistrate, Cruise's policy role, while his official one, will be just one in his advisory capacity for the newly elected Governor.
#3 - Leo Skenyon
The Speaker of the Houses's Chief of Staff is the gatekeeper -- and like his predecessor before him, Frank Anzeveno (under former Speaker Gordon Fox), Skenyon is the key to access the Speaker. Skenyon, a former top aide to Governor Bruce Sundlun and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, had most recently been the Traffic Tribunal Clerk. The former Chief of Staff to Senate-Majority leader Jack Revens in the 1980s, Skenyon has been at the helm before in orchestrating the chamber's top office. Skenyon enters his first full session at the post along with Mattiello as the agent behind the state's biggest power broker.
#2 - Gov. Raimondo
The state's 75th governor -- and first woman at the helm -- marks the first return of a Democratic head-of-state since Governor Bruce Sundlun entered the office in the winter of 1991. Raimondo however won with just 40.7% of the vote, which gave her the plurality, but not a mandate. Bringing in a number of outsiders for key positions, and shaking up multiple Department directors, the Raimondo administration looks markedly unlike any in recent years. How successful Raimondo is in pushing through her agenda in the first six months will go a long way to determining how powerful she will be in the next four years.
#1 - Speaker Mattiello
The Speaker of the House has always wielded the most power in Rhode Island, and Speaker Mattiello is now the de facto head of state for the second -- and first full -- year. Mattiello emerged from the 2014 session earning plaudits from a wide range of supporters for pushing through a cut in the corporate income tax and changes to the estate tax. Now, as a new General Assembly has just gotten underway, Mattiello is eying eliminating the state income tax on social security, before the Governor has submitted her budget proposal. Look to see what the Speaker can -- and will -- accomplish in 2015.
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