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Landlord shuts down Artic Mission's temporary shelter

March 1, 2013

Pillows and blankets were piled up after the temporary shelter was closed on Thursday. Jessica Boisclair. Kent County Daily Times.

WEST WARWICK— Having only been open a month, the winter emergency shelter started by the Pawtuxet Valley Homeless Advocacy (PVHA) has closed it’s doors, with hopes of finding a new location elsewhere.

The PVHA opened the shelter at the Upper Room of the Artic Mission, 1221 Main St., last month as a temporary shelter during the cold winter nights.

Last Monday however, Executive Director of the PVHA Ed Congdon was notified by landlord Lou Zarakosta that the shelter would need to be closed for liability reasons.

Congdon explained that Zarakosta did not know the shelter was going to be opened.

“We just did it,” he explained, “and we thought because we were paying rent we could do what we wanted to do.”

Although the PVHA offered to pay for Zarakosta to get a rider policy added onto his insurance, he declined.

“He’s afraid because it’s his property and he’ll get sued if something happens,” he said. “I understand it’s a business decision he had to make and it is his property. I’m not angry with him for it. The scramble now is trying to find another property we can use until our building is ready.”

Since its fruition a month ago, between 10 and 12 people have been staying at the shelter and it has become like “home.”

Five of the regulars are left scratching their heads about what their next move is going to be now that the shelter is closed.

Jimmy, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, has been homeless for 18 months; traveling from place to place.

While clean for many years, Jimmy had a steady job making $75,000 a year but that changed when he got into a motorcycle accident in 2011, leaving him jobless, and ultimately homeless.

After meeting Congdon and members of the outreach team from the PVHA, he was offered a chance to stay at the shelter until he got back on his feet.

He said the people at the shelter were like family and everybody pitched in with chores and cleaning.

He is not worried about himself now that the shelter is closed, saying, “I’m worried about the other people.”

“I’ve been out there, I know what its like to live on the street,” he added, “eating out of garbage cans and dumpsters but most of them don’t,” he added. “I don’t wish that upon anybody.”

Two men, Mike and Dave, plan on sticking together and helping each other out to find a better place.

Mike has been homeless for four months but is luckier than others because he owns a vehicle.

After being told on Monday that the shelter would be closed, he became nervous about having to stay at the Providence Rescue Mission in South Providence.

“It’s the only one that’s open,” he said nervously. “Whatever you bring in you have to tie to your wrist because otherwise it’ll get taken.”

In need of back surgery, Dave has been utilizing the emergency shelter for the past two weeks — the same amount of time he has been homeless.

Although he has family in the area, “they have their own things to deal with and I’m waiting for pending Social Security Disability Insurance.”

Dave previously fell down the stairs and cracked a disk in his back, and since then he has not been able to continue doing masonry work.

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