Grants & Scholarships

"I finally have a bedroom and a bed..."

The Jonnycake Center For Hope responds to Rhode Island's growing housing crisis

The emotions kept building as grandmother Sandra Wilcox Pates walked through her new home.

“No more going to the laundry mat.”

“We’ve never had a dining room table that everyone could sit at together.”

Yet it was her bedroom, designed with Indigenous touches and including a comfy queen-sized bed, that brought the Narragansett tribe member and lifelong South Kingstown resident to tears.

“I have been raising four of my grandkids and have been on the couch for more than 10 years. I finally have a bedroom and a bed.”

Pates’ home is a result of Jonnycake Center For Hope’s renovated housing initiative-an answer to the growing affordable housing crisis throughout the country and in Rhode Island. South County isn’t immune.

“Poverty is hidden here,” Jonnycake Board of Directors President Jane Hayward said reflecting on those experiencing homelessness by living in wooded areas or multiple families cramped in small apartments together, “but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.”

The nonprofit was once just a needed food pantry and thrift store. With consistent support from the Rhode Island Foundation and others, it now serves 2,000 South County residents a year with services such as financial help, nutritious food, summer drop-in programs for youth, cooking classes with take-home meal kits, free tax filings, assistance with government benefits, holiday help, and much more.

“Poverty is hidden here, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist."

- Jonnycake Board of DIrectors President Jane Hayward

Three years ago, leadership strategically decided to downsize its homeless shelter, called the Welcome House, to acquire and rehab four rental properties. Three, including Pates, were ready for occupancy recently. In total, three local families with 13 children who have been under-housed or living in temporary housing were helped with these units.

Its housing initiative “Jonnycake Neighbors” is also multi-faceted. It includes assistance with housing searches, landlord incentives, and housing opportunities with services included. Those services can include a free “ready to rent” certification course that prepares households to be responsible tenants and neighbors, financial help to fill gaps, and case management to help obtain services and resources to help with issues to ensure housing stability.

Said Jonnycake Chief Executive Officer Kate Brewster, “This is just the beginning of an ambitious plan to create as many as 18 three- and four-bedroom, service-enhanced housing units for local families who are struggling to remain in this community, and we will need the support of everyone here to make this plan a reality.”

To learn more about the Jonnycake Center For Hope's "Jonnycake Neighbors" housing initiative, go to:

Photo credit: Alisha Pina/Inner Wingspan