The Rhode Island Public Defender recognizes that there are specific challenges and barriers facing our homeless clients. In order to address these needs, the RIPD runs its Homeless Outreach Project. Through the Homeless Outreach Project, the RIPD works to connect resources in the community to our criminal defense in order to develop a seamless connection between legal representation and social services and advocacy. This connection ranges from on-the-fly crisis management when a client of our office says that s/he is looking for housing to preparing documents for court-room advocacy to public education regarding criminal defense practices and procedures. The public education targeted at the homeless involves speaking at shelters, transitional housing programs, and other service providers that work directly with the homeless to educate homeless individuals and service providers on expungement, warrant cancellation, and criminal law more generally. We also work directly with Rhode Island Legal Services (RILS), which represents indigent persons on many housing and homelessness related issues. In addition, each month, several staff at the RIPD volunteer at the Mathewson Street Church soup kitchen.
Our community partners in this project include:
Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project (RIHAP)
Housing First Rhode Island (Riverwood Mental Health)
Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless (RICH)
Providence In-town Churches Association (PICA)
Rhode Island Legal Services (RILS)
We also communicate regularly with shelters and homeless service providers across the state.
For information on the criminalization of the homeless and other legal issues involving homelessness, please refer to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.