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NEW: A Research Guide to Homelessness in Rhode Island

Providential Gardener is developing a research guide on homelessness. Read about the guide, explore the guide, and follow the news.

Rhode Island itself is a place, and a great place at that! But we also divvy the state up in different ways.

Jurisdictions and Villages/Neighborhoods. Rhode Island has COUNTIES (but these don't count for much -- there's no county government, although there are some planning groups and courthouses with county names), and MUNICIPALITIES. Within each municipality there are several villages and/or neighborhoods. These matter to Rhode Islanders, often a lot more than their actual municipality matters to them. Rhode Islanders often give their addresses by village or neighborhood name. In fact, some towns actually list their town hall address with a village name: Burrillville Town Hall is in Harrisville, RI, for instance. Glocester, North Smithfield, and South Kingstown also list their town hall addresses in villages. Many Rhode Islanders probably think that Wickford and Wakefield and Chepachet are towns, but they are really villages in three different towns. The municipalities matter more than villages, though, because each municipality has authority to govern all its villages and neighborhoods.

One more important point about municipalities and villages/neighborhoods: Just about every online information source confuses Rhode Island's municipalities with villages/neighborhoods. This is quite maddening if you want to index things consistently. For instance, here is a random example from Geology.com labeled "Map of Rhode Island Cities" ~ it pinpoints all 8 cities, but it has Tiverton, Bristol, Harmony, and Greenville, among a few other towns and villages. Why have Harmony, but not Portsmouth, which is a real town? Why have Wakefield but not South Kingstown? Oh, but it should only show 8 places if it's really a map of RI cities. This confusion is all over the place, so watch out. We need to keep this straight here so we can conduct our business!

  • 5 counties (FYI, "South County" is officially Washington County. The others are Kent, Providence, Bristol and Newport.)
  • 8 cities
  • 31 towns
  • 300-350(?) villages and neighborhoods. That's what I thought. Roberta Mudge Humble, CCRI English professor and RI trivia expert, says there are more than 400!

Voting Districts. Then we have voting districts. Rhode Island has two congressional districts, 38 state senate districts and 75 state house districts. Each municipality has voting districts as well. For instance, in Providence there are 15 wards, or voting districts. These matter because that's how we select people to represent us within the legal framework that governs how we do things in the whole state, as well in each Rhode Island's municipality.

Natural Resources. Places can also be environmentally defined. Save the Bay says RI has 40+ islands, about 400 miles of coast, and 237 ponds and lakes. There are rivers and streams, beaches, wildlife refuges, farms, land trusts, forests, and parks. Providence has more than 100 parks.

Sites and Buildings. Rhode Island has been inhabited by humans for millenia, and there are some ancient places in our state. Of course, we have many buildings that are 200-300 years old, and other historic sites and newer places that tourists and Rhode Islanders also want to visit.

Meeting Places. Where can people come together to discuss organizational business, hold workshops or conferences, etc.? These might be rooms within other places.

Education/Information Places. Schools, education centers and libraries are important resources for all Rhode Islanders. We can never know too much!

Places usually have specific addresses and all can be shown on maps. Not all places are connected with organizations, and not all organizations have physical locations, although they may have PO Box addresses. However, since places and most organizations have locations, they are all grouped together as a type of information in this website. It's a frightening jumble of places, with places within places!

Indexing and creating filtered views by place type will help deal with this complexity. In March 2016, I am still adding municipal environment-related organizations. Eventually, ProvGardener will sort out this mess!