Photo credit: Kristin Chalmers

Wendy Thomas

Providence, Rhode Island

Wendy Thomas has been involved in a variety of transportation, health care and housing campaigns that have improved health care outcomes for Rhode Island residents, with a keen focus on low-income residents who she knows are most vulnerable when costs increase or services are cut. Wendy was one of the key leaders in the Rhode Island Organizing Project’s several-year campaign to fight a new bus fare for low-income older adults and people with disabilities. She collected comment postcards, spoke at hearings and met with public officials to protest the imposition of a new fifty-cent per ride fare, ultimately getting the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority to rescind it, six months after it was imposed.

Wendy was also a leader in the 2018 campaign to prevent the state of Rhode Island from charging co-pays to Medicaid recipients. She collected hundreds of postcards and spoke at key legislative hearings.

Wendy is a member of the Board of the Providence Community Health Center, particularly engaged in the center’s extensive programs to serve those who are homeless. As a formerly homeless person herself, Wendy feels her life experience helps her in her advocacy, both in improving health resources, and in educating the public that homeless people are like everyone else, and deserve to have a voice and be treated with dignity.

One way she has worked to raise awareness has been her participation over the past seven years in The Tenderloin Opera, a Providence arts organization that enlists local writers and composers to help homeless and formerly homeless people tell their stories through words and music.

Wendy has advice for individuals wondering how they might take the first step toward advocacy. “Step one is gaining knowledge about things that affect you. The best starting point is asking yourself, ‘what is going to affect me?’ Because if it is going to affect you, there are a lot of other people in a similar situation. You won’t be alone if you get involved.”