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DID chairman outlines ideas to address social service agency needs and downtown quality of life issues

KP august 2016 cropAt a meeting this morning, Providence Downtown Improvement District (DID) Chairman Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. outlined recommendations to improve safety, security, and delivery of social services in Kennedy Plaza and throughout downtown. Over the past few weeks, the DID has convened with representatives of 44 organizations, including the city and social service agencies, to listen, talk, and debate. We are working closely with Mayor Jorge Elorza and his staff, and we embrace his vision for Kennedy Plaza as a vibrant gathering place. We look forward to hearing the mayor’s safety, social service, and quality of life plan, which he’ll announce tomorrow at 10 AM.

We initially brought stakeholders together to focus on aggressive panhandling, but the efforts have expanded to address broader societal problems and their underlying issues. According to Paolino, the resulting ideas are a “framework for our ongoing discussion with and among our community partners. Some of these recommendations will be altered or dismissed; others will be added. It’s a work in progress.”

The following ideas will be proposed to the DID board for endorsement and support:

  • Reaching out to foundations, businesses, and the state legislature to raise funds for the delivery of social services downtown. The short term goal is raising $1.3 million, although agencies have identified a need for up to $5 million.
  • Encouraging developers to designate and rent units to the homeless through the housing first model. Paolino Properties plans to set aside one of the microloft units in an upcoming downtown residential conversion project.
  • Hiring 1 or 2 social workers.
  • Securing a van to help transport people to the services that they need.
  • Supporting Amos House’s Hand Up program that will provide jobs to panhandlers. The DID is considering funding the hiring of 1 or 2 people under the plan.
  • Changing the ‘no smoking’ ordinance by expanding the area to all of Kennedy Plaza.
  • Urging the city to adopt a new content-neutral ordinance that would prevent any exchanges on roadways that present a public safety hazard.
  • Supporting Governor Gina Raimondo’s intent to expedite the removal of buses from Kennedy Plaza to a temporary location.
  • Improving the network of police and private building security.

In a Q & A session following Paolino’s presentation, DID treasurer John Rupp reiterated that the organization has brought committees together to focus on achievable goals through incremental changes. More details will follow once the plans are finalized.