State moves to establish homeless shelter at Cranston Street Armory

STATE OFFICIALS announced Wednesday a move to open a 24-hour warming station at the Cranston Street Armory./COURTESY PROVIDENCE PRESERVATION SOCIETY

PROVIDENCE – In response to growing pressure on the state’s shelter and homeless support systems, the McKee administration announced Wednesday their intention to open a temporary 24-hour warming station at the historic Cranston Street Armory building on the city’s West Side. 

The state-owned property will be open around the clock for “individuals experiencing homelessness who are living in a place not meant for habitation,” such as vehicles, or abandoned buildings, according to McKee spokesperson Matt Sheaf. 

The initiative, said Sheaff, “is the result of a cross-agency partnership among the Governor’s Office, Department of Housing, Department of Administration, Department of Business Regulation, Executive Office of Health and Human Services and others.” 

Capacity in the Armory shelter will be limited to 50 people due to fire and safety regulations. 

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In a follow-up conversation, Sheaff said the shelter requires approval from the State Properties Committee and the city fire marshal. He did not provide a definitive timeline for its opening, but said the administration wants to open the facility “as soon as possible” and will be filing “several public meeting notices” on Wednesday. The shelter would run through April 15. 

A request was sent out on Wednesday by the Rhode Island Department of Housing, Office of Housing and Community Development and Office of Health and Human Services soliciting letters of intent which are due  Dec. 7. by 1 p.m. A mandatory information session for interested applicants will be held at the Armory on Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. 

The chosen vendor will lease the building for $1 monthly, according to the multi-agency letter. 

“This will take a whole government approach to get this up and running,” said Sheaff. “The vision for this project is to serve as a temporary, low-barrier option that will immediately provide a safe indoor space for some of the most vulnerable people in this population, regardless of shelter or housing availability on any given night.” 

Sheaff said the administration is also sending a letter of intent to service providers “to further engage them on wraparound services” and to establish protocols for the site. 

The accepted operator will need to install portable toilets and showers on-site, provide transportation services, three meals a day, security, and other supplies, and hold the required insurance policies. The building currently has no showers, and the bathrooms are not ADA accessible, according to the solicitation letter. 

The development comes on the heels of last week’s announcement by McKee directing $1.4 million in federal funding for 75 additional emergency shelter beds. The Department of Housing has said they expect statewide shelter capacity to eclipse 1,000 statewide.  

In September, McKee also announced $5 million to address homelessness and expand shelter capacity. 

(Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at 


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