Crossroads Rhode Island receives $5 million grant from Amazon founder

Crossroads Rhode Island (WJAR)

"Surreal, it was really exciting."

That’s how Crossroads President Karen Santilli describes finding out the Rhode Island nonprofit was the recipient of a $5 million grant from the Bezos Day One Families fund, set up by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie to address homelessness in this country.

Crossroads is the only New England organization of the twenty-four that received a grant in this first round of funding.

The money will be used to help homeless families in Rhode Island.

"Kids need to be in school, the parents need support for employment and they can't do any of those things if they're in a shelter," said Santilli.

Crossroads Rhode Island currently serves an estimated 400 homeless families, with a Housing First model.

The goal is to get them into housing they can ultimately afford, and provide support like employment resources and mental health services so they don't fall back into homelessness.

"Sometimes a family needs six to nine months of help, then they're able to get back on their own feet," said Santilli.

To that end, Crossroads will be transforming its Warwick facility, which is a shelter on the first floor and apartments above, into entirely permanent supportive housing for families.

Santilli says Crossroads was invited to apply for the grant, which means the Bezos Fund was already aware of the work Crossroads is doing and felt the model is successful.

"So our goal will be to continue doing what we're already doing but on a larger scale, we want to be very smart so that we have immediate but also lasting impact," she said.

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