Only on 10: Homeless shelter forced to close

On a typical Thursday night, the second floor at 1221 Main Street in West Warwick would be packed with people.

The Pawtuxet Valley Homeless Advocacy group averages about a dozen guests per night at its temporary homeless shelter nicknamed 'The Upper Floor Coffeehouse.'

It's a place local needy folks have become accustomed to going to for a warm meal, some good advice, and a place to sleep.

But when the landlord of the commercial building began to worry about the liability involved with offering those types of services, he pulled the plug.

And now several dozen homeless people from all over the region are left out in the cold.

Edward Congdon, Jr. is the Executive Director of the non-profit help group.

He said, "The landlord just made a decision that he owns this building in his personal name, and it's a liability for him if somebody falls down the stairs. We're a wet shelter, so we take people who are intoxicated of course, if they're too intoxicated, we send 'em to the hospital to detox them, but he was worried about the liability."

But 'a place to stay' isn't the only service the Pawtuxet provides.

Congdon said, "We do outreach as well. We help place people, we get 'em into programs, we do assessments, mental health, substance abuse. We do referrals for Housing First programs."

Jimmy Weldeck is one of hundreds who have received help from the charity group over the years.

He's been homeless for 18 months now.

Weldeck admits it was Ed Congdon, and his private donation-based-program that saved his life.

"Funds just ran out from church to church, and Mr. Congdon rescued me," Weldeck said, choking back tears.

"When you're homeless you've gotta do what you gotta do. I won't lie. I've ate out of dumpsters, slept underneath bridges, slept in tents you know, in my car, you know? I'm just scared because people that were here with me over the last month. It's hard to see em go. They've only been homeless for two, three weeks, a month. I don't want to see them go through what I went through," Weldeck said.

Congdon says with most of the shelters in Providence full, needy people like Jimmy Weldeck are now out of luck until the group's new facility opens in the Spring.

"There's not enough shelter beds, and by the elimination of this temporary emergency shelter, they just eliminated 16 of those beds. It's hard because we've worked so hard over the last few months to make this place home, but now we have to find somewhere new. We are working on a brand new facility in Coventry that will operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, but it won't be ready for another 45 days," Congdon said.

Weldeck was in tears knowing the facility is now closed.

He said, "It eats me up, you know? It really does. It's unfortunate that we can't stay here, but god will provide for us, I have faith."

When asked where he would stay if not for a the Pawtuxet Valley Homeless Advocacy group, Weldeck said, "I'd be in my car, night after night after night. I've been there before. I'm used to it."

Congdon says he needs the public to help the Pawtuxet Valley Homeless Advocacy group until the new facility in Coventry opens.

"What we need is someone to come to the table, offer us some space, or you know, we need to get some donations in so we can rent some space," he said.

If you know of someone who may know of a space that would be a good fit for the Pawtuxet Valley Homeless Advocacy group, just here to access the group's Facebook page to let them know.

And if you'd like to donate in the meantime, the Pawtuxet Valley Homeless Advocacy group is holding a wine tasting and silent auction fundraiser this Saturday, March 2nd at the Twist Restaurant in Warwick from one p.m. to four p.m.