Rhode Island’s governor said Wednesday that he activated the state National Guard to help run a warming station in Providence for the homeless.
The move comes as Democratic Gov. Dan McKee faces a lawsuit over his decision to evict people camping in tents outside of Rhode Island’s State House.
More than two dozen people have been camping, some for several months, to protest what they say is a lack of adequate housing. McKee issued eviction notices last week and offered the campers shelter and transportation.
But the state has never had enough shelter space or enough shelters that can meet the needs of the people at the State House and the homeless scattered throughout the state, such as couples and people with disabilities, said Steven Brown, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.
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The ACLU and the R.I. Center for Justice are suing on behalf of the group so they can continue camping at the State House.
The warming station will start operating on Friday. McKee sent a letter to the head of the Rhode Island National Guard, Major Gen. Christopher Callahan, on Monday authorizing him to order up to 50 guard members to temporarily help operate the Cranston Street Armory site.
“The administration is continuing to do the work to connect unhoused Rhode Islanders, whether they are encamped at the State House or living elsewhere, with a warm place to stay as quickly as possible,” McKee said in a written statement.
A judge has issued a restraining order to bar the evictions from the State House encampment until a further hearing by the court. A hearing scheduled for Wednesday on whether to extend the restraining order was postponed until Friday.
McKee said his administration is investing $1.4 million to increase the number of shelter beds statewide to more than 1,000; making $166 million available for affordable housing efforts; and allocating $9.5 million in federal funds for more legal services for low-income households facing housing insecurity.