As we discussed options at the Unhoused Task Force to address the goal that no one die of hypothermia in our community this winter, we had an awakening. To set the stage, we are committed to having a safe place in Riverton. The most vulnerable are those who suffer from alcoholism. Currently no programs in Riverton accept someone who tests positive. One person shared his idea that we find an empty storefront and open it up for shelter. As he spoke, he acknowledged that nearby businesses might object to drunks being around. As soon as he said it, he apologized for having used the term “drunks” to describe our unhoused neighbors. This led to a wonderful discussion about how we view people who are unhoused. One shared that she walks her dog each evening at the Riverton City Park and takes time to visit with people there. She said that sometimes when she called someone “sister,” she would get the response, “You are not my sister.” So now she calls others “friend,” which then may lead to a discussion about what that means. We decided that people coming to the shelter would not be customers or clients, they will be guests. Prior to the meeting, one had shown me an email her church received from someone who lives across the street asking the church to get rid of the “homeless” who hang out, seeing them as a problem to be feared. This church, located in my neighborhood, supports and provides space to the Riverton Help Center. Why would someone lash out towards those in need and at a church that helps? A quote from Gregory Boyle suggests an answer: “For if we don’t welcome our wounds, we will be tempted to despise the wounded.” (Boyle, a Jesuit priest, is the author of Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, a book I am now reading, and the founder of Homeboys Industries.) Whenever we put others down and approach solutions feeling superior, perhaps it could be that we have not dealt with our own woundedness.
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice. Chesie Lee
PS: People are asking if RPM found an executive director/lead organizer. The answer is yes! The successful candidate chosen will begin in October. Details will come later.