SOUTH KINGSTOWN—As the town council prepares to appropriate funds in the upcoming budget, the council heard from a long list of human service agencies which service South Kingstown residents during its budget work session Monday.
Although the town manager’s proposed Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget doesn’t include requests for funding increases—those will be addressed by the town council during its budget deliberations—the total FY 2017-18 amount requested by human service agencies is $147,000—up from $138,000 in the adopted 2016-17 budget.
Representatives from each of the 13 agencies requesting funding spoke Monday to explain where those funds go.
Thundermist Health Center of South County, which has requested level funding of $24,000, served about 8,600 patients last year, 2,971 of whom were South Kingstown residents.
“Three-hundred-thirteen of those people were uninsured,” explained Marlene Roberti, director of development and communications at Thundermist. “That’s about a 10 percent uninsured rate. Before the Affordable Care Act, that rate was at 40 percent. We don’t know what to anticipate will happen in the coming year, but certainly this is a time where it’s important to continue serving folks that don’t have insurance. The money that we get from the town of South Kingstown will help to support that.”
The average cost per visit to the non-profit health center, Roberti explained, is about $165. Last year, the 313 uninsured patients paid about 1,200 visits.
“As you can see, it doesn’t quite cover it,” she said, “but we have some other federal dollars that help us do that.”
The Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale has also requested level funding of $22,000 in the upcoming fiscal year.
Last year, the organization distributed 280,000 pounds of food—including 75,000 pounds of produce—to community members needing assistance, Kate Brewster, executive director of the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale, shared with the council.
Over 2,000 South County residents sought the center’s services last year, including 400 first-time visitors.
“This was quite a big jump from the year before,” Brewster added. “We also doubled the number of seniors that we are delivering to in the community who are homebound, and we distributed more than 20,000 school vacation meals in 2016—that was a 35 percent increase from the year before.”
The school vacation meal distribution program cost the center about $30,000.
“We purchase a lot of the food that we provide to those families through outside wholesalers,” Brewster explained. “We don’t get a lot of that through the Rhode Island Community Food Bank—and we’re very happy to do that, and certainly funding from the town helps to support that initiative.”
Town funding will help to launch some other initiatives, Brewster added, helping families to move toward economic security.
Also requesting level funding—$9,000—is Cane Child Development Center, the Wakefield-based non-profit preschool center.
“With your help we were able to put an infant room into our facility,” executive director Lisa DiCarlo told the council.
Many of the children at the preschool come from low-income families, DiCarlo said.
“We do have our struggles,” she added, “just like everybody else.”
DiCarlo said she would like to make some classroom improvements with the funds received from the town.
“The building is over 30 years old,” she said. “For us to keep a healthy and safe environment, we have to make sure that the floors are safe, the roof is safe, plus we always want to keep up with equipment that’s developmentally appropriate for the children.”
From the Welcome House of South County, executive director Joe Dziobek addressed the council. Whereas the organization received $8,000 in the 2016-17 fiscal year, this year it has requested $11,500.
“There are basically five components to Welcome House,” Dziobek explained. “We have the 17-bed shelter, we have the winter shelter that runs from Nov. 1 to March 31, we have the soup kitchen, we have [30 units of] transitional housing—permanent housing—and we have our housing navigator.”
Last year, 101 people went through the shelter, Dziobek said, and 66 out of 86 who left went on to live in permanent housing.
“That’s 75 percent, and that’s pretty good,” he said, “not the best, but pretty good.”
Dziobek added that last year, the winter shelter served 63 community members.
“This year, through February, we served 92,” he said.
“Two years ago we served one woman in the winter shelter,” he continued, “This year, we’ve served 20, so far. You can see that there is a need growing, as I see it, among women in the area.”
Dziobek said the extra money requested would help the organization achieve several goals for the upcoming year, including the purchasing of a building to house women.
“And let me just say, the money last year—we put it to good use,” Dziobek added. “One of the things we’ve talked about that I think we will do [in the upcoming year]—we wanted, on the first floor, to create what we’re calling a ‘welcome center.’ So, even after the winter shelter has closed, people who might then go back out to Old Mountain Field or the bike path or some of the local campgrounds can come into the Welcome House to receive housing navigating services.”
“So we have some ambitious plans,” he continued, “and every penny counts.”
Also requesting funding increases over the previous fiscal year are Easter Seals Rhode Island, which has requested $5,000, up from $1,000, and Hope Hospice and Palliative Care, which has requested $3,000, up from $1,500.
“I just want to say, thank you to all the human services agencies,” town council vice president Abel Collins said after every representative had spoken. “What makes a community great is how we treat our less fortunate.”