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Transient, Homeless or Unhoused?

How do we categorize someone who sleeps at night outside despite the weather because they do not have a welcoming, warm, and safe place to go?

Sometimes they are called transients as if in between places, staying for a short time before moving on. But for Indigenous peoples living in a bordertown to an Indian reservation, like Riverton is, they may get called transients although they have lived here all their lives, even for generations, longer than any of their white settler neighbors like me.

Sometimes they are called homeless as if here is not their home. I will use myself as an example to illustrate why homeless is not a good description. I had traveled to Australia in the 1990’s for an expected lasting relationship. When that did not work out, I returned to where I considered home, Douglas, Wyoming, even though I had no place to live there and little money. People were glad to see me and warmly welcomed me home again.

The same is true for Native Americans who may be in Riverton without a roof over their head. They have family and relationships here, but they lack shelter. They call Riverton home. Therefore, they are not homeless.

I learned recently, thanks to a mentor, that the correct terminology is unhoused. The term unsheltered might also be accurate, like in Riverton where a shelter no longer exists.

But I have good news. Christ Episcopal Church in Cody, Wyoming, from proceeds from its Bargain Box Stores, awarded a generous grant to cover the costs of a Summit for Our Unhoused Neighbors, March 16-17 at the Wind River Casino. A summit will bring people together to develop the means to cooperatively address this need. Not easy, but doable. On Tuesday, January 10 we will be planning for this summit via Zoom. Sign up below to give your input and find out how you can help.

Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.

Chesie Lee

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