For Immediate Release: July 11, 2019
Contact: Chris Hunter, 401.487.7771
Community Action Partnership of Providence Moving Out of Elmwood Community Center Due to Unsafe Building Conditions
City’s largest non-profit provider of social services reluctantly forced to end operations at the Elmwood Community Center due to concerns over asbestos, chronic leaks, heating, electrical, and other building issues. Community Action Partnership of Providence working diligently to find a new location to resume offering critical social services programs to the residents of South Providence.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Due to serious health and safety concerns with the City of Providence owned Elmwood Community Center (ECC), the Community Action Partnership of Providence (CAPP) has reluctantly made the decision to move out of the building and end all programming at the ECC on July 31st. Without adequate alternative space identified, this will force the closure of the city’s largest food pantry serving 750 families per month, and the layoff of three CAPP employees. CAPP is now actively searching for alternative locations across the city and will temporarily move several programs to the organization’s headquarters at 518 Hartford Avenue.
Rilwan K. Feyisitan, Jr., Executive Director of CAPP has shared the below letter with community members detailing the organization’s difficult decision to end services at the ECC and work to find alternative locations to resume offering critical social service programing:
Dear community members:
It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that due to serious health and safety concerns with the city-owned Elmwood Community Center (ECC), the Community Action Partnership of Providence (CAPP) has unfortunately decided we can no longer offer our many valued programs at this location. We will not place your safety or the safety of our employees at risk, and that is why on July 31st, CAPP will be forced to end all programing at the ECC.
We know how important the ECC is to the resident of South Providence, and that’s why we want to share the facts regarding the building’s significant deterioration and what we are doing to move our programs to other locations so that we can continue to serve you.
For the past six years, CAPP has been the lead tenant at ECC, which is owned by the City of Providence. We have used the ECC to offer programs including a food pantry, senior center, hot meals site, Dress to Progress professional work attire, Project Undercover providing diapers, socks and underwear to children in need, Rhode Island Works vocational and job placement assistance, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), the Fresh Start educational initiative, and a Little Free Library. Every year, more than 1,500 community residents depend on these services offered at the ECC.
Unfortunately, the physical condition of the ECC is in a state of dangerous disrepair. Recent testing conducted by the City found asbestos present in at least one area of the building. In addition, the ECC has been experiencing near constant roof leaks, and for several weeks this past winter our employees worked in rooms with no heat. We attempted to address this situation with space heaters, but the building’s outdated electrical system could not handle the extra load. We have also been informed that there is possible soil contamination from underground fuel tanks that are present or were at one point removed from the site.
As CAPP serves many South Providence youth, seniors, pregnant parents, and individuals with compromised immune systems and breathing issues, we simply cannot jeopardize their health, or the health of our employees by continuing to operate in the potentially dangerous conditions present at the ECC.
We have worked with Mayor Elorza, the City Council, and our General Assembly delegation to address all of these issues. As the owner of the ECC, the City is responsible for its maintenance. However, the building is in such bad condition that repairs cannot be made fast enough to bring the ECC up to the safe and clean environment that community members and our employees deserve. Indeed, the City has estimated that the cost to repair all ECC building issues to be $4.6 million, yet only $1.9 million is available. Without a fully funded and clearly sequenced repair plan to address all ECC issues, we have made the difficult decision to leave the building.
CAPP is now in the process of looking for other locations in South Providence and throughout the City where we can resume offering the many important programs that our community relies on. Some programs, including RI Works which serves residents citywide, Dress to Progress, VITA, and our Little Free Library, will be moved to our offices at 518 Hartford Ave. However, due to space constraints and similarly poor building conditions at 518 Hartford Ave, which is also a City-owned building, these programs will not be able to serve the same number of residents. Programs like our Food Pantry, serving over 750 people in the 02907 zip code, will sadly be forced to close.
I want to reiterate that CAPP is devastated that we have been forced to make this decision. I also want you to know that CAPP is dedicated to continuing to serve the residents of South Providence and all city residents with programs and services that help people to live independent lives. That is why we are working as fast as possible to identify other locations where we can resume offering our programs.
To make this a reality, we need your help and input. That is why I am inviting you to join me next Thursday, July 18th from 6:00-7:30pm at the Renaissance Church (184 Broad St Providence, RI 02903) for a community forum to discuss the closure of the ECC and how CAPP can overcome this setback and once again offer all of the social service, health, job training, and other programs that Providence residents depend on.
Please contact me with your questions and concerns, and be sure to visit our website (www.cappri.org) and Facebook page (Facebook.com/CAPofProvidence/) for regular updates as we look for new space.
Rilwan K. Feyisitan, Jr.
Community Action Partnership of Providence
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About the Community Action Partnership of Providence (CAPP)
CAPP, established in November of 2012, is a leading provider of social services in Providence, Rhode Island. The organization operates, promotes and supports the development of human service programs aimed at improving the lives of low-to-moderate income individuals and families living in Providence. CAPP works to minimize poverty while empowering members of the community to be self-sufficient. www.cappri.org