Mayor Brett P. Smiley and Chief of Policy and Resiliency Sheila Dormody today announced the creation of the Housing and Human Services Office within the City of Providence. Emily Freedman will serve as the Director of the Housing and Human Services Office, bringing with her over 12 years of leadership in community development, housing and planning. The new office will be focused on building and guiding the City’s affordable housing strategy; integrating behavioral health supports across city departments; and working with community partners to enhance public health and provide quality affordable housing throughout Providence.
“I am excited to announce this new office, which reflects the priority that housing and health have in this Administration,” said Mayor Brett Smiley. “Our residents need both immediate supports and long-term solutions to address the housing and behavioral health crises that we are experiencing. This new, integrated office will allow the City to better align resources to meet residents’ interconnected needs, enhance the work of community partners and make impactful quality-of-life changes for our most vulnerable residents.”
Freedman previously served as the Director of Community Development for the City of Providence for over seven years where she oversaw Providence’s affordable housing strategies and investments, managed community investment programming and led the strategic deployment of federal funds for innovative projects across the city. The newly established Housing and Human Services Office unifies the City’s Healthy Communities Office, the Housing and Community Development Division and Senior Services. The HHS Office will be charged with the planning, implementation and management of the City’s community development programs, housing programs, citywide health policies, health promotion and substance use disorder prevention programs. This includes key initiatives like the City’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Plan, making Providence an Age-Friendly city and the comprehensive investments the city has made in affordable housing development over the last year. The HHS Office will work across city departments to coordinate funding efforts and policymaking around health, housing and homelessness.
“Housing and health are two intrinsically connected issues. By aligning our efforts, I am confident we can make impactful change for the residents that need it most,” said Chief of Policy and Resiliency Sheila Dormody. “We are thankful for the incredible work of our many community partners that are already making meaningful progress in this space and we look forward to further amplifying their work.”
Increasing housing development across all price points has been a top priority for the Smiley Administration. In 2023, the Smiley Administration invested $29.2M in the Providence Housing Trust to help boost the City’s supply of high-quality, affordable homes. Additionally, the City has invested $4.3 million in ARPA funding for emergency shelter beds and other emergency housing solutions, has invested in critical programs like Amos House’s A Hand Up program through the City budget and is set to invest another $1.7 million in emergency housing supports this year. These historical investments and efforts will serve to ensure the diverse housing needs of residents are met and related social determinants of health are addressed.
Mayor Smiley also announced that Rachel Ferrara will serve as the City of Providence’s Director of the Human Services Division within the HHS Office. She joined the City in February 2022 as the Healthy Communities Office Data & Evaluation Manager. In that role, she oversaw the development and implementation of evaluation plans for critical programs, such as Behavioral Health Co-Response. Ferrara also led the development of the City of Providence’s Overdose Prevention Strategy and she will oversee its implementation in this new position.
Additionally, William Facente will serve as the City of Providence’s Housing Division Director within the HHS Office. Facente joins the administration after a laudable twenty-eight-year tenure with the City of Warwick, where he focused on the development of affordable housing, housing rehabilitation and community economic development programs.
Housing and Human Services information and programs can be found online at providenceri.gov/housing-human-services.