Village of hope for homeless

Posted 3/13/24

The House of Hope CDC is building the state’s first village of hope for the homeless.

Laura Jaworski, executive director of the Warwick-based non profit, advanced the concept of box-like …

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Village of hope for homeless


The House of Hope CDC is building the state’s first village of hope for the homeless.

Laura Jaworski, executive director of the Warwick-based non profit, advanced the concept of box-like houses comprised of a single room large enough to accommodate a twin bed, while providing heat, security and space for belongings. She saw Pallet Shelters, made in Everett, Washington as a means of temporarily housing  the homeless while appropriately distancing  them during the pandemic. A Pallet house was erected on Post Road in front of House of Hope offices in Apponaug.

The concept had its supporters, however, the issue was where to locate the rapidly deployable units. Suggestions included installing them in a giant warehouse or outdoors on athletic fields during the off season. The tiny houses with 70 square feet of space now have a home in a highly visible area yet offering seclusion and access to services. The first of the tenants could be moving in within the month..

 The state-owned site off Victor Street in Providence is less than an acre within a 4-acre field that makes up a clover leaf on ramp to Route 146. The property abuts a residential area. The site is fenced and ECHO Village would be staffed by House of Hope employees around the clock, “providing diverse, innovative and person-centered programming to serve individuals experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island,” reads a brochure. The village will include a large community unit for meals and gatherings, three restrooms, two showers and two laundry units. The community unit will also house offices. 

 In a Feb. 21 letter to supporters, Jaworski shared an aerial photo of the 45-unit ECHO Village nestled within an onramp with the Providence skyline as the backdrop.

“At the heart of our mission is affirming safe, stable housing as a basic human right  - something we can fulfill with the development of ECHO Village,” she writes.

Jaworski said the Pallet Houses built in Everett, Washington and costing $15,000 including construction and site readiness are not designed as “forever homes.” They lack a kitchen as well as bathroom and laundry. However, they offer security and a sense of personal space and dignity that Jaworski  views as a first step to more permanent housing. Residents will be permitted to keep their pets.  The village is funded through a $3 million contract with the Office of Housing of which $1 million is the shelters and site.

Policies and regulations for tenants have been in discussion since the early days of the proposal and are being finalized.  She acknowledges there need to be consequences for failing to follow regulations with the initial step working with case management.

“We want to work with people,” she said underling there are expectations on behavior while being “all supporting.”

“You have control,” she said pointing out there will be a trained team on site that understands how to deescalate, decompress and stabilize situations.  What she sees as the driving incentive for tenants is knowing they can come back to the same place every night that is theirs. The units lock.

“When people have a safe convenient  space they succeed and more forward,” she said. One of the more immediate benefits for residents is “finally getting some rest.”

“We’re not a shelter state. We’re a housing state,” she said calling the village, “a temporary measure while creating more housing.”

Longer range,  Jaworski expects the average stay to be a year at which point “they are completely exiting our house” to more permanent housing.

“That’s what we are striving for,” she said.

FROM STREET TO VILLAGE: This aerial shows ECHO Village, which is nearing completion, in the clover leaf on ramp to Route 146 headed south in Providence. The “village” of 45 Pallet Houses would offer secure housing for homeless.

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