Rotary agencies team up to deliver food to homeless people living in motels

EASTERN PROVIDENCE – Every Thursday at 11 a.m., except meetings and holidays, Johanna Corcoran visits the Rumford Motor Inn.

The doors open as she pulls her Kia Soul into the parking lot and opens the trunk, revealing eight boxes filled with yogurt, cherry tomatoes, sandwich toppings, green salad – food to help out those who do. from the motel their home after being left homeless.

“It helps a lot. It will save money for an apartment, ”said Paul Crowley, 65, who has been living in his car for several years after being unable to pay the rent. As gasoline prices rose during the pandemic, he could no longer afford fuel to keep the car running and warm during the winter months. An outreach worker from the House of Hope Community Development Corporation helped him find a hotel room.

“Without them I would be totally screwed,” Crowley said.

Corcoran deliveries are part of a thriving partnership between We Share Hope, the nonprofit that operates Hope Market in Rumford, and the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness. Called the Hotel Motel Empowerment Program, the organizations work together to serve homeless people living in four hotels statewide. The goal is to expand weekly food deliveries to anyone who lives in a hotel or motel due to homelessness by next month.

“We hope to reach all the hotels the coalition works with,” said Corcoran, executive director of We Share Hope. We Share Hope is working on property listings working with the coalition to provide housing.

The coalition declined to provide specific estimates of the number of people experiencing homelessness who live in hotels across the state.

The idea for the empowerment program came about when Corcoran met a man who lived in a motel with his wife and three children the night before Thanksgiving, shortly after Corcoran took the helm. His car was in need of repairs and he was desperately looking for enough food to keep the family through the Thanksgiving vacation, when the kids wouldn’t have access to free meals at school, she said.

We Share Hope organized three bags of food to be delivered with a Stop & Shop gift card.

“The expression of relief on his face when we dropped the food has stayed with me to this day,” Corcoran said.

“It means so much to them. They are excited. They wait for them every week, ”said Felicia Lee, the coalition’s on-site coordinator, outside the Rumford Motor Inn on Thursday.

Maria Nunes found herself living in her car last winter after being evicted from her home in Johnston.

The nine homeless people who have made the Rumford Motel their home are often concerned that time is running out for the publicly funded hotel program. They do not know whether they will have to return to live in their tents or their cars.

“There are people who have medical needs… Where are they going to go? Lee said.

One of the motel residents, Maria Nunes, found herself living in her car last winter after losing $ 5,000 in rent at her Johnston home and being evicted.

“I lost everything, the wedding photos, everything,” said Nunes, 57. “I was about to give up life.”

Nunes has now found housing thanks to the coalition, and it made him shine and embrace Corcoran and a journalist on Thursday.

We Share Hope general manager Johanna Corcoran, right, receives a hug from Maria Nunes during a food delivery to the Rumford Motor Inn.  To the left is Felicia Lee, on-site coordinator of the RI Coalition to End Homelessness.

“I’m so glad there is someone to take care of,” Nunes said.

What was clear Thursday morning at Hope Market was that Nunes and Crowley and other hotel residents aren’t the only ones grappling with rising costs amid the pandemic. People lined up outside the door, waiting to shop at the heavily discounted market that relies on surplus produce donated by companies such as Stop & Shop, BJ’s, Ocean State Job Lot, Gordon’s Fine Foods and Gotham Greens .

Located in a windmill at 310 Bourne Ave., Building 70, in Rumford, Hope Market welcomed more than 2,000 people in August alone – a monthly figure that has steadily increased throughout the pandemic, has said Corcoran. The number of people passing through its doors has increased by 138% since July 2020.

On Thursday, the shelves were stocked with everything from juice boxes and diapers to toilet paper, tomato sauce, lime pie, carrots, pineapple slices and fresh bread. Volunteers helped customers select a range of meat options from industrial refrigerators and freezers. Anything without a price tag is worth the money.

Visitors also have the option of purchasing a bag and filling it with items from certain aisles, all for $ 5. “We encourage them to fill it out, to fill it out,” Corcoran said.

Roger Johnson, 73, volunteers three days a week in the spacious warehouse. Frito-Lay’s retired sales rep, Johnson knows the food.

“I understand how to operate a warehouse,” said Johnson, of Swansea.

We Share Hope relies on its volunteers. “We are operating on a shoestring budget,” Corcoran said.

“It really helped us stretch our money,” said Alanna Solitro, of Swansea, pushing 2-year-old Matthew into a cart. Plus, she said, 100% of what she spends on the family of five goes to helping others, rather than a billionaire CEO.

“I feel like it’s such a blessing right now. Everything has increased, the gas, the food. That’s what we need right now, ”said Jeanne Chaves, who made her first visit to the market that day. She was planning to come back to do grocery shopping for some of her neighbors in need.

“It’s going to be such a help,” she said.

Information on We Share Hope is available at

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