Maxine Richman, co-chair of the Interfaith Coalition, stood shoulder to shoulder with Governor Lincoln Chaffee and acknowledged with pride that our Governor became the first in the United States to sign into law a Homeless Bill of Rights.
Naming the Need
This Shabbat we read the opening chapter of the book of Sh'mot. The word "Sh'mot" means "Names" and the text goes on to name those descendants of Jacob who went down to Egypt and whose progeny would ultimately be enslaved there.
This week, in Rhode Island, we recall the names of the needs which bind our neighbors all over our state*:
- In 2011, 148,00 of our neighbors (14.7% of the population) lived in poverty and close to 69,000 lived in extreme poverty.
- In 2011, 47,127 children (21.9% of our youngsters lived in poverty.
- Around 7,000 families relied on the RI Works program for assistance. The monthly payment of $554 for a family of 3 is 60% below the poverty level. Close to 33,000 elderly and disabled Rhode Islanders received Social Security Insurance benefits. the monthly payment of $738 is 21% below the poverty level.
- Between 2010 and 2011, 120,000 (13.6%) of Rhode Islanders under the age of 65 did not have health insurance.
- Between 2009 and 2011, an estimated 13,000 (5.6%) of children under the age of 18 did not have health insurance.
- In 2011, more than one in seven Rhode Island households (15.5%) were food insecure (did not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life).
- In August, 2012 there were 175,590 Rhode Islanders receiving SNAP (food stamps).
- An average of 66,000 people permonth were served at emergency food pantries in 2012 . . . like the Edgewood Food Pantry and the Chester Kosher Food Closet supported by our Torat Yisrael community.
- During 2011, 4,410 people used emergency homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters and transitional housing.
- One-quarter of the people experiencing homelssness in 2011 were children.
- In October 2012, the unemployment rate in Rhode Island was 10.4%, the highest in New England.
*Statistics released by the Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty