All politics is local and state a media campaign lessons learned
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All Politics is Local (and State) A Media Campaign: Lessons Learned. Jim Ryczek, Executive Director [email protected] Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference July 9-11, 2007. The Context. Welcome Arnold Shelter Closing (May, 2006)

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All Politics is Local (and State) A Media Campaign: Lessons Learned

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All Politics is Local (and State)A Media Campaign: Lessons Learned

Jim Ryczek, Executive Director

[email protected]

Rhode Island Coalition

for the Homeless

National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference

July 9-11, 2007

The Context

  • Welcome Arnold Shelter Closing (May, 2006)

  • Governor’s Pledge (June 2006)

  • Advocacy 2006

  • New “Operation First Step” Program

  • Advocacy 2007

  • Subsequent Closure and Aftermath

  • Lessons Learned

Background:Welcome Arnold Shelter

  • Largest Shelter in the State (night-to-night)

    • Housed 114 total

      • 46 women

      • 68 men

  • State Owned Bldg. – Private non-profit run

    • Deplorable conditions

      • Bed bug infestations

      • Non-working toilets, w/out doors

      • Poorly trained staff

Decision to Close

  • New State Police Barracks;

  • Eminent Domain Controversy;

  • Information was leaked to us, May 2006;

  • We leaked the information to the media, early June 2006.

Governor’s Pledge


“While this move will require the re-location of the existing Welcome Arnold homeless shelter, I have pledged to ensure that every individual using that facility is accommodated before construction begins. In the wake of somewhat misleading media reports, I am happy to reiterate that pledge today.”


Advocacy 2006

  • Summer 2006 - Requested meetings with Governor’s staff over, and over, and over…

  • Fall 2006 - Visited the Governor one afternoon (Media tipped off);

  • Fall 2006 - Worked the existing system (State Office of Homelessness) to achieve our Goal – no new warehouse shelter;

  • December 2006 - Results in “Operation First Step” being authorized by the Governor (note: this has had a positive and a negative outcome).

Advocacy 2007(Lead-up to the closure)

  • Established an Implementation Committee for Operation First Step;

  • Requested meetings to address those who would be “left out” with Governor’s Staff, over, and over, and over…

  • Began the concurrent planning for Media Campaign and Engaged a Consultant on Messaging.

Advocacy 2007(Lead-up to the closure) cont.

  • Began the concurrent planning for Actions with our sister organization People to End Homelessness (grassroots organizing group);

  • Gave the Governor’s people one last chance to meet with us (and documented ever single date and refusal to do so), and warned them we’d act if they did not…

Media Campaign

  • Thursday (3/9/07) – Planted Story in Providence Journal and alerted contacts at NBC 10 (hinted at possible actions);

  • Monday (3/12/07) - Media Advisory sent at 8:00 AM to draw interest / interviews and announce a Press Conference (3 TV, 5 Radio);

  • Tuesday (3/13/07) - 11:00 AM Press Conference outside the Governor’s Office at the State House, great coverage;

Media Advisory

Governor Carcieri breaks promises to

Welcome Arnold shelter’s

homeless residents

Included a quote by our Chief of Housing & Community Development from the story that ran that day:

"We're not exactly sure where we're going to put people who haven't got assignments on nights all the shelters are full but we are going to continue to work with Crossroads and we're going to monitor the situation every day."

Media Campaign - cont.

  • Tuesday and Wednesday - “Call-in” Days to Governor’s Office sponsored – results in over 180 calls of concern/protest and shut down the Governor’s phone system;

  • Wednesday (3/14/07) – Pitched Pro-jo reporter and photographer on final night story and final ride of the “Goose”;

  • Thursday (3/15/07) ClosureDay - Co-ordination with P.E.H. on their actions to keep press interested and our message alive (Occupation of the Building).


  • The 40-50 persons we estimated would not be “accommodated” were in fact…not ;

  • The remaining two men’s shelters were inundated to overflow capacity by over approx. 20 per night, men sleeping on blankets on hardwood floors;

  • No emergency women’s shelter exists (in Providence) so 10-15 women sleep on air mattresses on the Community Room floor at Crossroads;

  • The 95 men and women in Operation First Step are doing extremely well…some have moved on to more permanent situations already.

Lessons Learned…

  • Failure to have a simple message;

  • Failure to fully consider the “legitimacy” of the State’s spokeswoman;

  • Better understanding of lead time needed to be effective;

  • Better understanding of limited resources to maintain a sustainable campaign

    • Money, Time, Energy, Ability to Mobilize; and,

  • Realization of the Public’s Understanding of & Concern about the Problem (…or lack thereof).

Positive Outcomes & Future Planning

  • Documentation of shelter experiences (H.O.P.E. students from Brown University);

  • Street Sights – a new street newspaper;

  • Built up Legitimacy and Respect among other organizations and non-government funders in Rhode Island;

  • Highlighted the need for Strategic Planning on Public Relations & Communications to decisions makers and the broader public regarding Homelessness in Rhode Island.

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