Wallbreaking marks start of new affordable housing

Posted 2/23/22

In 2018 Crossroads Rhode Island closed the doors to the Rhode Island Family Shelter, originally built as the St. Benedict Church convent, in Conimicut. 

On Wednesday afternoon the …

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Wallbreaking marks start of new affordable housing


In 2018 Crossroads Rhode Island closed the doors to the Rhode Island Family Shelter, originally built as the St. Benedict Church convent, in Conimicut. 

On Wednesday afternoon the organization officially kicked off renovations of the former shelter with a wall breaking ceremony. When complete, the former shelter will provide four families with stable, affordable, and permanent housing.

“This is a really exciting day,” said Crossroads Rhode Island CEO Karen Santilli. “This facility has a real special place in our hearts. For many it was a live changing facility. It was an emergency temporary shelter for families.”

According to a press release the “Beach Avenue Apartments are part of Crossroads’ housing-first model and provide an example for how the state can leverage bonds, grants and other funding streams to accelerate construction of low- and moderate-income housing.”

“Housing is the only proven solution for homelessness,” said Santilli. “The Beach Avenue Apartments will provide more opportunities for Rhode Island families to find a permanent place to call home. This redevelopment has been made possible because of close partnerships with the City of Warwick and Rhode Island Housing and I hope it will serve as a model for how to invest in and re-purpose underutilized properties to create more housing for low-income families.”

Michael Raia, a spokesperson for Crossroads Rhode Island said Crossroads closed the shelter after transitioning the 10 families living at the shelter into safe and permanent housing. 

“The facility has been empty since the families found homes and Crossroads has led an effort to convert the facility into apartments,” a Crossroads press release reads. “This creative collaboration with the City of Warwick and Rhode Island Housing can provide a model best practice for how municipalities can re-purpose underutilized facilities to accelerate the construction of housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.”

Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey during the event said, “I’m extremely proud of this project.”

He recognized that the space where the wall breaking was taking place was once the Chapel for St. Benedict Church. 

“Rhode Island’s housing crisis is without question one of the most serious challenges we face. This project demonstrates what we can achieve when we work together to find innovative solutions to the issues confronting our communities,” said McCaffrey. “I’m deeply grateful to Crossroads, Rhode Island Housing, and the City of Warwick for their efforts to transform this shelter into a model of what’s possible across our state. The Senate remains committed to building on the historic progress of the past year and partnering with all stakeholders to realize our common goal – ensuring all Rhode Islanders have a stable, safe, and affordable place to call home.”

Last year, Crossroads Rhode Island helped more than 900 Rhode Islanders secure a new home and helped nearly 1,200 others - including nearly 500 children - maintain their housing, according to a press release.

According to Crossroads the Beach Avenue Apartments are supported by several public and philanthropic funding sources, including $1.5 million in Building Homes Rhode Island bond funds managed through Rhode Island Housing and $36,000 in Community Development Block Grants awarded through the City of Warwick.

“This wall-breaking is an important reminder of what can be accomplished through partnership. This kick off represents so much more than a single new development, it represents a clear recognition that housing is the solution to end homelessness,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “RIHousing is proud to support developments like the Beach Avenue Apartments renovation because we believe that our families and our state are strengthened when every Rhode Islander has safe and affordable access to housing.”

Construction will begin immediately and is scheduled to be complete this fall. The contractor for the project is Pariseault Builders, Inc. of Cranston. Virginia Branch of Branch Architects in Providence served as the architect for the project.

With the additional four apartments the Beach Avenue Apartments will now be able to house about 10 families, Raia said. 

It will be another step in the direction of attempting to end homelessness statewide. 

“Rhode Island can actually be the first state in the country to end homelessness,” said Santilli. “ I truly believe that.” 

shelter, housing


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