It’s been 54 years since Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis outside the Lorraine Motel room where he was organizing a crusade against poverty, a scourge that remains a national challenge, highlighted by the homeless recently camped at the State House.
The Rhode Island chapter of The Poor People’s Campaign has joined the Emergency Housing Coalition, which is championing the homeless evicted from the Rhode Island State House plaza in December by Gov. Daniel McKee, and the homeless of Rhode Island living outside this winter. While some have been offered shelter at the Cranston Armory, the 66-cot shelter isn’t big enough, the group says, according to a WPRI report.
UpriseRI reports there are still hundreds of people sleeping outside or in their cars. The Emergency Housing Coalition asks the Governor to take additional action to help the state’s least fortunate:
- Immediately reopen hotel rooms to provide 400 emergency beds, as this is the only viable short-term means of getting a roof over the heads of those who are currently living outside.
- Guarantee that [the McKee administration] will not evict residents of tent encampments.
- Immediately find sites and begin assembly of rapidly deployable emergency shelters. These can provide viable shelter while permanent supportive housing and deeply subsidized housing units are under construction.
- Accelerate the process of generating 500 new permanent supportive and deeply subsidized housing units for those who will be sheltered in temporary emergency beds.
The Poor People’s Campaign is based on King’s vision of a Poor People’s campaign, which would have included a march on Washington of around 2,000 people, speaking out against income inequity, lack of opportunity, and insufficient wages, according to MLK50. The website quotes King:
We ought to come in mule carts, in old trucks, any kind of transportation people can get their hands on. People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way … and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.’
Today, during the federal holiday recognizing King, the public and media usually talk of King’s efforts in the early days of the civil rights struggle, memorialized in Selma, which you can rent on Redbox or stream on Amazon. Many will direct your attention to a day of service among Americans by way of honoring King’s legacy.
The Associated Press reports Rhode Island has received more than $1 billion in COVID-19 pandemic relief funding from the federal government, and the homeless have certainly been struck hard by the last two years of the pandemic. Rhode Island has the means to offer its homeless population shelter from the cold. We can do more than just reflect on King’s lionized ideals and vision as this crisis occurs in our back yard, and we should.
MLK Day: What’s Open?
While you’re thinking about all of that and how you might help change it with your current representatives, remember the usual answers to common holiday questions:
Non-essential Government departments are closed, as are many corporations.
Public transit company RIPTA is following holiday routes on Thursday. Check the RIPTA website for schedules.
TF Green State Airport is operating, with arrival and departure schedules online.
Ministers Alliance of RI Celebrate King legacy at Scholarship Breakfast
The Ministers Alliance of Rhode Island will commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at their 37th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast.
Each year at the breakfast, students are awarded scholarships to help continue their education and pursue their dreams.
Monday’s scholarship breakfast honoring students takes place at 11 a.m.
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