The Providential Gardener website has begun compiling a research guide on Homelessness in Rhode Island. I am publicizing it for the first time January 2, 2023, although it still needs a lot of work. I'm releasing it now in the hope that this compilation will help state leaders sort out how the government and nonprofits can be well organized to deal with the homelessness crisis. There are some tangles that make it hard to understand this complex issue from what is currently published on the internet. I welcome constructive suggestions, comments, additional information, links, and corrections.
I have focused on arranging what I can find on the internet into what I hope is a useful resource. I believe a comprehensive sorting out of the available information is essential for achieving the goal of preventing and ending homelessness.
In early January 2023, this guide may look messy and too complicated. There are several reasons for this. The main ones are:
- The issue is innately complicated because there are many reasons people are homeless, and they need a wide variety of assistance to get on their feet.
- The issue has overwhelmed the service providers and available permanent housing.
- State and community leaders are not all on the same page regarding strategies for reducing homelessness.
- But it is further complicated by out-of-date web pages on RI.gov, and inadequate, out-of-date explanations of the state's strategies.
- Then there are a lot of questions about all the state agencies involved - why so many? - and how they relate to each other. And, we hope, how they could collaborate more effectively.
- Funding for preventing and ending homelessness is coming from many sources, and finding a complete account is difficult on the web. So this will have to be pieced together, or maybe I'll find the magic document somewhere! Or someone will send it to me.
- Complicating things to the nth, the federal government is funding most of the programs, which come with complex regulations and requirements. Plus acronyms and odd terms like Continuity of Care and Virtual Binders.
- Human beings don't want to deal with a lot of complications, so there is resistance to sorting everything out. It's eye-crossing material that resists sound bites.
I hope in the next few months to reduce the complications, make it easier to understand what is going on, and explain a reasonable way forward.
This research guide is an outcome of the Providential Gardeners's point of view that Rhode Island is a garden we all tend (or trash). Beginning with a focus on caring for our environment, the website content has to expand to include how we care for each other as human beings, dependent on our environment for surviving and thriving.
It naturally occurs to me to create a research guide because I am a reference librarian. Librarians routinely produce research guides on complex topics to aid students and patrons in their studies. I worked briefly at the Harvard Business School Library and the Providence Public Library in the reference departments in the 1990s and then at two high-tech research and development defense contractors for eleven years. See my LinkedIn page for details.
Since 2006, I have been developing the Providential Gardener, forever a work in progress, because it is obviously too big a task for one person. I hope to keep it going long enough until Rhode Islanders see this is necessary work. Internet searches don't always provide well organized, clear answers to questions, and the more complex the question, the less likely the usefulness of the raw search results. Information is scattered all over the place. We used to be able to go to brick-and-mortar libraries to find information, and people may think today that the internet has replaced the libraries. But what's happened is the walls have been blown out of the libraries, information is not centralized, and it is especially hard to get a clear picture on big issues. See the Issues page.
My methodology consists of finding information that answers a set of general research questions on issues. As I develop this first guide, I find more questions to ask, and as information builds up on a topic, I've created additional pages to make it easier to digest. At the moment, though, the complications of information about programs for unhoused Rhode Islanders seems to give some of us heartburn.
I hope you will find this guide useful as I continue to organize information about homelessness in RI. I welcome your constructive responses.
P.S.: A special note to librarians and others who like to research issues: Please contact me if you are interested in working on research guides for this or another important issue our state faces.