PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza took to the steps of City Hall Thursday to pledge to clean up downtown by proving more support to the homeless and those living with substance-abuse or mental health issues.
Elorza said he and the City Council will help open a day center designed to connect people living in poverty with community resources and provide an alternative from hanging out in and around Kennedy Plaza, which has seen a spike in drug arrests and nuisance crimes this summer.
“By addressing this issue creatively, collaboratively and compassionately while incorporating best practices from throughout the country, Providence can become a model for the entire nation,” Elorza said.
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The mayor also said he wants to post “giving meters” throughout the city to encourage people to donate spare change to programs that can help the homeless rather than giving money to panhandlers. He said the city also plans to launch a website that will allow people to donate to charities.
Web domain records show the city purchased www.pvdgives.org in July, but the site still has a “coming soon” landing page.
Elorza’s press conference was held a day after former mayor and property owner Joe Paolino held his own event to unveil his plans for reforming downtown Providence. The two mayors offered very similar visions for support social-service organizations, but Paolino has encouraged the city to take a more aggressive approach to enforcement actions.
Paolino is supporting an ordinance being introduced to the City Council Thursday that would prohibit panhandlers from seeking money from people in cars. Elorza said he will consider the ordinance, but stopped short of committing to endorsing it. Reached Thursday, Paolino said he supports all of Elorza’s ideas.
Elorza has also announced the city will work with Amos House to hire people who resort to panhandling, but it is unclear how many jobs will be created.