I write from the cosy stacks of the Rock. As I look outside to take in the gorgeous view of the Quiet Green, I spot a professor cheerfully cycling to downtown Providence in his sandals. A few smokers take their jackets off and turn their faces towards the sun. A girl walks her dog in a pink sundress that she probably kept on the hanger in hopes of 60-degree afternoons like this one. Everywhere I look, happy smiles, bright colours and a show of skin.
A week ago, I was working in the same cosy stacks of the Rock. As I looked outside to take in the gorgeous view of the Quiet Green, I spotted a security officer jumping up and down to keep warm, as well as a few girls in their tiny Halloween costumes sprinting through the snow. I remember thinking, who would ever go out on such a freezing day?
That night, it dropped to 33 degrees. The snowflakes felt more like icy daggers than romantic flurries. I remember walking back to my dorm in a fast-paced shuffle, complaining about the weather—something college students especially excel at, it seems. It did not occur to me then, that there were some people out there—that is, people my age—who have no dorm, no home to go back to. Last year, 4,398 Rhode Islanders were homeless and 25 per cent of them were children. When Providence’s winter shelter Emmanuel House (the first of its kind in Rhode Island) officially opened three weeks ago, it almost immediately experienced overcrowding. With local shelters offering only a total of 400 beds, the homeless have been competing for a mattress every night.
"This is what I go through every day. I'm either on a cot or a bed that's not mine," says Terrick Mills, who has been homeless for almost a year. "Without this shelter, I would be without resources. No food. No nothing."
Yesterday, a “One Stop Holiday Shop” was put up in Warwick to raise money and awareness for the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. The event comprised of more than 55 local vendors selling holiday crafts. Today, advocates met for a daylong conference called “Reaching Home Rhode Island” to examine the problems of affordable housing and homelessness. Despite these initiatives, it is impossible to provide every homeless Rhode Islander with food and shelter. Thanks to your clothing donations from last weekend’s ABC party (remember how cold it was that evening?), a handful of Rhode Island children aged 4-18 will have a warmer winter. We cannot thank you enough for your contributions.
In this issue, we focus on National Youth Homelessness Awareness Month. With that in mind, you may wonder why we ran a piece on a fun-filled art exhibit this week. We’d like you to juxtapose it—New Yorkers and tourists sliding down Carsten Höller’s installation slide, hands up in the air—with the issues facing the local Providence homeless. We walk the same streets, feel the same chill and share the same city with these people. It is important to remember not only how fortunate we are in our well-heated bubble, but also to reach out and act as members of a community.