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What comes first?

Shelter. Access to food and water. Community safety. Health care. Equity. Belonging and acceptance. Justice. All of these need to come together for us and our neighbors, which requires a cooperative compassionate committed community. I have hope that we are moving in that direction in Riverton.

The many and diverse knowledgeable participants registering for the March 16-17 Riverton Peace Mission’s Summit for Our Unhoused Neighbors is a good sign. The positive reception to the Riverton Peace Mission’s turnout and presentation for the Riverton City Council last Tuesday is another indicator.

The City of Riverton choosing a new chief of police, Eric Hurtado, coming from Alaska in May with experience working with a tribal community there and a commitment to community engagement and relationship building also provides hope for “Never Again in Riverton” through sensible policing practices different than those that led to Andy Antelope being killed at the Riverton Walmart by Officer Donohue in 2019.

So where to start? When I was five years old in 1950, my father began a chicken hatchery. It started with eggs. Not true. Hens had to first lay the eggs. Roosters had to do their part before that. Incubators were needed to keep the eggs warm, humid, and turned. We can argue about whether the chicken or the egg came first, but reality is that both and more all come first linked together. The same is true for addressing bordertown violence and racism in Riverton.

The Housing First Movement made sense to me when I first heard about it. But I realize now that housing first does not mean housing alone but much occurring simultaneously – healing, jobs, food, friendships … I know that what we will learn from our Summit this week will further support the need for a wholistic commitment ranging from changes in community attitudes and policing to multiple infrastructures to increased community engagement.

We are on the right path. Together, we can do it. It won’t happen overnight. But we’ve made a start.

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

Chesie Lee

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