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RIDOC Providing Nightly Meals for the Homeless

CRANSTON, R.I. – June 10, 2008 – When Richard Frechette, Project Manager for Statewide Prisoner Reentry, learned that evening meals were no longer being provided to residents of the overflow shelter at Harrington Hall on the Pastore Complex, he quickly thought of a workable solution. Since the RIDOC prepares meals for upwards of 4,000 inmates every night, how difficult would it be to prepare 120 more? He approached Corrections Director A.T. Wall with the idea and was told that as long as there would be no additional cost to the Department of Corrections, he could proceed.

Richard serves on the coordinating committee of the Office of Homelessness Services and Emergency Assistance (OHSEA), and it was through his involvement on that committee that he first learned of that many shelter residents were going to bed hungry. The meals had been provided by MHRH for some time, but staffing issues were leading in the direction of that agency being forced to start charging for the service, something OHSEA could not support. For a while, an area church was providing the meals with volunteer help, but that proved too challenging and couldn’t be sustained. While most shelter residents were able to get breakfast and lunch at other daily meal sites in the area, dinner was proving a challenge since the mean had to return to the shelter early enough to secure a bed for the night. Now that meals are back at Harrington Hall, that stress has been eliminated.

John Rogers, RIDOC’s Associate Director of Food Services, conferred with Richard and within four months or so, a plan was in place. The United Way covered the start-up costs (for utensils and warmers) and the board of the shelter, which is run by the Urban League, agreed to subsidize the cost of the meals, which averages about $1 per head per meal. The dinners are prepared in the kitchen of the High Security Center and a crew from Minimum Security, earning a maximum of $3 per hour, picks them up and transports them in warmers to Harrington Hall each night. Approximately 120 men from the shelter now get, for the most part, the same nutritious meal as the 3,800-plus ACI inmates seven nights a week at approximately 6 p.m.

Street Sights, a new publication for and about the homeless community, applauded the partnership between the RIDOC, the Urban League of Rhode Island, the United Way, the Food and Shelter board, and the members of OHSEA for this collaborative effort on behalf of a population in need in its June 2008 edition. The article credits Richard Frechette and John Rogers with developing the plan that has now become a routine part of nightly operations at the RIDOC.

Corrections Director A.T. Wall is pleased that the Department is able to offer this valuable service. He notes, “I’m extremely grateful to not only Richard Frechette and John Rogers for spearheading this initiative, but also to those additional members of the Food Services staff and the officers supervising the work crews which transport the meals, who are also critical in the success of the program.”

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