Rhode Island JwJ hosts "State House Soup Kitchen"
Rhode Island Jobs with Justice activists converged on the Rhode Island State House in Providence on February 29th for a Jobs With Justice-sponsored “State House Soup Kitchen.”
The State House Soup Kitchen, which happens each Wednesday, is put on by the Rhode Island Housing Advocacy Project and the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless as part of a campaign to push state lawmakers to invest in jobs, housing, transportation, and ending hunger.
The crowd of more than 70, which included many members of the homeless community, gathered to hear speakers address the need to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to prevent cuts to public transit and fund permanent supportive housing.
Justin Kelly, a member of Local 195 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades told the assembled that they “shouldn’t have to have a soup kitchen in the State House” but that lawmakers needed the pressure as they attempt to “balance our budgets by targeting the most vulnerable among us.”
Jennifer Flynn from Occupy Providence spoke to how cuts to disability spending would punish disabled people like her sister who has down syndrome are being punished for the misdeeds of the investment bankers who collapsed the economy in 2008. She thanked members of the homeless community who assisted Occupy Providence during its encampment and called on high-income earners to pay a higher “fair tax” rate.
Other speakers included Don Rhodes of the Rhode Island RIPTA Riders, who called for preventing cuts to RIPTA services; Jean Johnson, Executive Director of the House of Hope Community Development Corporation, who called for a living wage jobs and a dedicated funding stream for permanent housing; and Rev. James Ford.
Following the speaking program, activists and members of the homeless community passed out lunch bags on the floors of the House and Senate, which had the following statistics about Rhode Island attached:
- 50,000 households are considered food insecure (unable to stock pantries/pack lunched at end of the month)
- 4,410 were homeless in 2011, up 484 from 2007
- 172,000 receive SNAP benefits
- the unemployment rate stands at 10.8%
The attachment also advocated for funding for affordable housing, a “Homeless Bill of Rights,” and “Just Cause” legislation to prevent foreclosure.