Inside building where RI put homeless


Putnam Place in Smithfield, the state-owned building where Rhode Island moved COVID-positive homeless people in the summer.

In early April, Shane McNamara Gazzo, an emergency medical technician who lives in Providence, answered Gov. Gina Raimondo’s call for medical workers to join the state’s COVID fight.

He volunteered first at a hotel in Warwick that was set aside for COVID-positive homeless people, then became the assistant program director when they moved to a state-owned building called Putnam Place in Smithfield. 

By October, he quit in protest. In disgust, really, about the way the state government looked after homeless people at Putnam Place:

-Raw sewage and a cockroach infestation made some areas of the building unfit for human habitation. 

-The fire alarm system repeatedly malfunctioned, going off at random times and forcing people sick with COVID to evacuate. 

-When parts of the Putnam had to shut down because of those issues, the program — under pressure from the state to take as many people as possible into the quarantine and isolation site — moved people who had COVID into the same areas as others who didn’t have their results yet. In at least one case the results came back negative, but the person had to be retested after their exposure, McNamara Gazzo said. 


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