Martin Blackburn, Northern Arapaho, said he asked an elder what was the Arapaho word for “the homeless.” The elder explained that the word he gave literally means, “Those who wander.”
At the Summit for Our Unhoused Neighbors, we identified gaps in efforts, such as when youth “age out” for services at 18, public intoxication being a crime, penalties for reporting the truth, questions of marital status that prevent a family from staying together, cultural humility, racial equity, information, and resources.
We learned about possibilities with relationship-building, services being welcoming and centered on those in need to meet them where they are, and wholistic approaches. We identified barriers in policies, failure to collaborate, and finances. We began problem-solving and making commitments to act.
More than 85 people (our goal was 50) representing nearly 50 entities attended some or all of the Summit. They included the Fremont County Coroner, members of the Riverton City Council and of the Fremont County Commissioners, staff of Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribal programs, school districts, veterans, nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations and most importantly, those who have experienced being unhoused. We were missing tribal and state legislative leaders, court officials and legal services.
Fremont County Circles is developing a comprehensive list of services that address poverty. The Eastern Shoshone Housing Authority, Wind River Cares, White Buffalo Recovery, and others are adding programs. Connections were made to share knowledge and resources.
We need to focus, develop long-term but flexible plans, get out of our silos, and strengthen bottom-up decision-making with leaders listening and responding. Money is there if we have the will to access it.
Thanks to all who contributed to the Summit’s success including the grant from the Bargain Box, an outreach of Christ Episcopal Church, to cover the costs of the facilities, food, and presenters.
Action item planned for next month: Our collectively going to the meeting of the Fremont County Association of Governments (elected county and municipalities officials) on April 20th to ask for a detox facility for those who wander and suffer from addictions. Stay tuned for details.
Don’t forget to register for our April 6th Zoom event to discuss with Cary Heck how changes in policing policies and practices could benefit everyone in the community.
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build Relationships. Do justice.