To the Editor:
Thank you to Bishop Tobin and the Diocese of Providence for generously donating RIPTICs to the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen to assist our guests with transportation costs. This gift came at a time of the month when folks are out of money and food.
On February 1, 2017, RIPTA eliminated free bus rides for the Disabled and Elderly Bus Pass holders and instituted a reduced fare program for these riders. The disabled and elderly now have to pay 50 cents for the bus ride and 25 cents for a 2-hour transfer. This doesn’t sound like an exorbitant amount of money, in theory, but for those who are homeless, have no-income, are disabled or are living in poverty, this is more money than they can afford. As a result, many folks are unable to eat every day. Many of our guests come in less frequently, but all say the same thing: “I am starving” and “I haven’t eaten in a couple of days.”
In a country as prosperous as the United States, this is disgraceful. Rhode Island has made such great strides in working to eliminate hunger, which is a basic human need. From the food pantries to the soup kitchens,everyone has worked hard to meet the need. In September 2016, when the state began experiencing problems with its new UHIP system, all who were not receiving benefits because of these problems came to food pantries and soup kitchens so they would not starve. And we all met the increased need. The Pawtucket Soup Kitchen saw a client increase of approximately 20 percent between September and December, yet, everyone who came to our meal site was fed. No one left hungry.
This all changed on February 1, 2017. In the month of February, our Soup Kitchen saw a 28 percent decrease in attendance at our breakfast and dinner meals, as many of our guests were unable to afford the cost of the bus fare. It is frightening to think about the long-term effects this will have on our guests who are unable to eat regularly. For all of us here, it is heartbreaking to know that our people are once again going hungry.
A good measure of our society is how we treat the most vulnerable among us. Bishop Tobin and the Diocese of Providence have shown us kindness and compassion and have made it possible for us to help those who really need our help. Thank you for this incredible gift which helps to insure that less people will go hungry.
Adrienne Marchetti, The Pawtucket Soup Kitchen