Housing Stability & Shelter

Housing Stability Headline:

Governor McKee announced $3.1 million contract with Rhode Island Legal Services for eviction prevention program. Tenants facing eviction can call Rhode Island Legal Services for assistance.

Last-reviewed: 12pm, May 22, 2023

Key Resources:

The Basics

Tenants and Landlords
  • The eviction process has many requirements, including notices to tenants, a judicial decision and order, and execution of the court order for eviction. Only a judge can order a tenant to be evicted. Self-help evictions, where landlords circumvent the required court process, are illegal.
  • For Providence residents, lead service lines to private homes can be replaced through either a special 10-year 0% interest loan program or a free replacement initiative. More information here.

The Breakdown

Tenants and Landlords
  • The City of Providence has launched an Eviction Defense Program to connect tenants at risk of eviction with legal advocates. The program will match eligible tenants with an attorney or law student. 
    • Services are provided to Providence residents who earn 65% or less of the area median income or who live in a qualified census tract.
    • For more information, contact RI Legal Services at 401-274-2652 or visit the Tenant Help Desk in the Sixth District Court in Providence.

Reminder: The eviction process has many requirements, including notices to tenants, a judicial decision and order, and execution of the court order for eviction. Only a judge can order a tenant to be evicted. Self-help evictions, where landlords circumvent the required court process, are illegal.

  • Westbay Community Action Program is helping clients with hoarding disabilities maintain their housing. Hoarding is a disability that can impede a client’s ability to stay in their home; paying to clean up and organize their home can maintain housing stability. Boston Globe article here (paywall). Rhode Island Hoarding Resources Directory.
  • The shortage of affordable housing for very low income households continues to worsen. The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a new report in March. HomesRI Press Release here.
  • Accessing free legal services can be challenging. Here are a few resources renters and landlords can use during this time:
    • RI Legal Services
      • RILS’ Virtual Office Hour is every Tuesday at 3 pm and offers seminars for tenants with eviction-related questions. Zoom link here.
      • RILS has this basic information on representing yourself in an eviction case.
    • RI Center for Justice.
    • The RI Landlord-Tenant Handbook explains the basic eviction process.
    • The Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness offers a free Legal Clinic where people who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness can receive 20-minute consults. Advance sign-ups are required.
    • A help desk staffed by RWU Law students and experienced housing attorneys is open at the 6th District Court in Providence to assist unrepresented tenants. Read about more Pro Bono projects here.
      • The help desk at Providence District Court is staffed Monday through Friday from 9 am until 12 pm and at Kent Court Tuesday through Thursday.
      • Each day, one legal services attorney and two or three law students staff the Eviction Help Desk in both Providence and Kent Counties.
    • HUD announced new proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.
    • HUD has proposed a new regulation to eliminate restrictions on hiring fair housing testers with criminal records.

Note: IPV (DV) survivors may have specific housing rights covered by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The National Housing Law Project has this guidance.

Rental Assistance
  • Tenants may have access to housing assistance programs that require tenants to pay a certain amount of their income for rent and the voucher pays the rest. There are Section 8 Rental Assistance Vouchers through the housing choice voucher program, project based vouchers, and section 8 subsidized apartments. RI Housing has information about these rental assistance programs here. Waitlists for housing assistance are long. Tenants can now sign up through the centralized wait list here.
  • Faith based organizations, like St. Vincent de Paul, may have discretionary funds to help individuals and families with rental assistance.
  • The Rhode Island Landlord Incentive program gives landlords $3,000 for the first rented unit, and $1,000 for subsequent units, funds for repairs, and in some cases guaranteed rent for up to one year. The program is geared towards housing people experiencing homelessness. Visit Amos House to learn more.  
Conditions of Disrepair

Tenants have the right to safe and habitable apartments that comply with RI housing code laws. Care teams can share the following information and resources to help people access their rights and improve poor rental conditions.

  • Tenants can write a letter listing the conditions of disrepair.
  • The tenant can file a complaint with their town/city hall code inspection department.
    • For more information, contact the specific town/city hall code inspection department.
  • RI Legal Services has this information outlining tenant’s rights to habitable apartments including how to use the Repair and Deduct rule for minor repairs.
  • The Rhode Island Department of Health has a few programs for some families with children who have asthma, including the Home Asthma Response Program and Breathe Easy at Home
  • Tenants worried about lead paint exposure can contact the RI Department of Health’s Environmental Lead Program for more information.
  • Tenants with disabilities who need modifications to make their apartments accessible are entitled to reasonable accommodations. Paying for modifications in private rentals can be challenging. Check with insurance companies to see if modification costs can be covered or check with local organizations like the Ocean State for Independent Living.

The Bottom Line

  • Care teams can support people facing eviction by connecting them to financial and legal resources and shelters. Help maximize benefits to offset other household costs.

Spotlight on non-discrimination:

  • In Rhode Island, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants based on the tenant’s membership to a “protected class” such as Race, Color, National, Religion, Family Status (having children under 18), Mental or Physical Disability, Marital Status, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, Age (18+), Status as a Victim of Domestic Violence, or Income Source (e.g., Section 8).
  • If you are supporting a person who believes they have experienced housing discrimination, connect them to the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (RICHR). RICHR conducts impartial investigations into claims of housing discrimination.

Shelter Headline:

Shelters are open, but there are long wait lists.

Last-reviewed: 12pm, May 22, 2023

Key Resource:

The Basics

  • Shelters are open, but there are long wait lists.
  • Each city and town has designated warming centers, often community centers or public libraries, that will be available in the case of extreme cold. A list is here.
  • Federal law ensures that public school students experiencing homelessness have equal access to public education. Each school has a local homeless education liaison. General information about RIDE’s resources for students experiencing homelessness.
  • RI’s legislature approved funding for the “Pay for Success” program that will create additional permanent supportive housing for Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness. More information here.
  • The Coalition has several legal resources to support individuals are experiencing homelessness or at risk.

The Breakdown

  • People experiencing homelessness or are at risk must call the Coordinated Entry System (CES) hotline (401) 277-4316 for diversion and shelter resources.
    • The CES is staffed by Help Center agents who will conduct an assessment and provide referrals and assistance as needed.
  • SOAR is a program aimed at helping eligible adults and children who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and who have serious mental illness, medical impairments and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder access disability income benefits. Referral information here.  
  • The RI Coalition to End Homelessness has several legal and housing programs:
    • The Legal Clinic is open to people experiencing homelessness or at risk. Services are offered at the Warm Center, Smith Hill Library, and Safe Haven.

The Bottom Line

  • Shelter access and affordable housing is extremely scarce. Care teams can help people experiencing (or at risk for) homelessness by uplifting income maximization strategies, connecting people to the Coordinated Entry System and/or other services like the Coalition’s free legal clinics.

Spotlight on discrimination:

  • RI was the first state to pass the “Homeless Bill of Rights” which prohibits discrimination based on housing status. Specifically, a person’s rights, privileges, or access to public services cannot be denied solely because that person is experiencing homelessness. This includes the right for people to enter into a homeless shelter with their service animal. More information, including printable “Know your rights” cards, here.
  • If a person believes they have experienced housing discrimination for these reasons, they can file a complaint with the RI Commission for Human Rights, telephonically or electronically.
  • Care teams can uplift this important information to help people access emergency shelter!