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Coalition of nonprofits wants to gubernatorial candidates to see Washington County’s needs

WESTERLY — The Basic Needs Network, a group of about 30 nonprofit social-service agencies and churches, will be inviting Rhode Island’s gubernatorial candidates for a meet-and-greet.

Network members agreed Tuesday to invite all candidates to a meeting, followed by tours of some of the Washington County agencies.

“These folks have got to understand what’s happening down here,” said Russ Partridge, who proposed the idea to the rest of the network.

Partridge, the executive director of the WARM Center and the network’s chairman, said statewide problems such as food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty are exacerbated in Washington County by a lack of jobs that pay living wages, a dearth of affordable housing and scant mass transit. And politicians, he said, don’t necessarily see that problems are different down here.

“We always feel like we’re on the other end of the earth,” Partridge said, adding that rural poverty has its own challenges.

A lack of public transportation is one of those challenges. Although the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority does provide a Flex Service vehicle in the area, it has a limited and rigid schedule, Partridge said. And so without a car, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a resident of Washington County to access the resources that are available.

“If I don’t have a car to get to the food bank, the fact that it’s there isn’t helpful,” he said.

A car is also usually needed to get to work, school, job training or a doctor’s office, Partridge noted, adding that many of the state’s job-training programs are located in Providence.

Invitations will be mailed to gubernatorial candidates, including Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, attorney Clay Pell, entrepreneur Ken Block, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and others. The deadline to file the paperwork necessary to appear on the November ballot is June 25.

Partridge said he will give the candidates a range of dates to choose from, so they don’t all come to the same meeting. After the meeting, candidates will be given the option of touring some of the Washington County agencies.

The Basic Needs Network meets the second Tuesday of every month to discuss issues of common concern, share information and resources and avoid duplication.


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