At Tuesday’s council meeting, the peace mission advocated the solution of accommodated cities

The Riverton City Council heard from members of the Riverton Peace Mission (RPM) Tuesday night who came to the meeting to advocate for the voiceless. RPM board member Allison Sage asked the council to “work to provide better services to our people that we see walking the streets.” According to him, the peace mission wants to decriminalize alcoholism in the city. “Our number one goal is to keep people alive, no more freezing or shooting.” We want to work on policies that keep these kinds of incidents out,” he said.

Sage said Wind River Cares operates a homeless shelter at Casino 789 south of Riverton where they can stay warm, eat and clean up. But he said there was no such place in Riverton.

Mission member Nicole Wagon said Riverton’s homeless problem isn’t going away. “Help them. They have nowhere to go,” Wagon recommended to the city administrator to implement a four-point program to help with the problem, including establishing a committee on solutions to eliminate institutional racism, collecting and reporting baseline and other data related to this population, and conducting training for city employees and officials and to acquire and develop resources, systems and structure to resolve conflicts without racial bias. She also pushed for the city to create a paid liaison position to work on these issues, preferably with a Native American. “We need your help to come together, Wagon said.

Nicole Wagon and Allison Sage of the Riverton Peace Mission offered suggestions to Riverton city leaders Tuesday night. Photo by Ernie Over

Liz Salway, who works with the homeless, said “the problem didn’t develop overnight and it won’t be solved overnight”. She noted that “90 percent (of the homeless) have behavioral health issues. It also supported the establishment of a liaison position.

Salway said she was kicked out of a city park herself while working with people there, but didn’t say by whom. “It’s a public place, no one should be kicked out. She also noted that these people “need attention, first aid and a place to stay at night. The city council needs to look at our needs.”

Wagon said the group came to the city council “in a good way to hope for a meeting of the minds and find a solution.” She also praised the city “for your efforts so far.” Wagon said her daughter was murdered in the city and she said, “It’s hard every day, I miss my kids every day. I ask the Creator why? I’d rather have my baby back.” But Wagon said she won’t stop being an example to others. “It’s for all of humanity. Please come together and consider our demands. Ha Hou.”

Riverton resident Matt Hartman said the homeless are in emotional distress. “This is a mental health issue. People need connection and the pandemic has led to people not seeing other people,” he said. “Is it our responsibility as community members to be our brother’s keeper, or is it the responsibility of the state or the federal government?” Hartman asked. “We all have something to contribute.” He agreed that a committee to work on solutions would be a good idea.

Mayor Tim Hancock told the group that what they’re saying is “not tone deaf. We’re trying to improve Riverton and life here for everyone.” That’s why the mayor noted that the Homeless Neighbors Summit will be held March 16-17 in the Blue Sky Room at the Wind River Hotel and Casino.

According to information provided by RPM at the summit, this event is planned for the community to address key issues facing our homeless neighbors. The keynote speaker will be Ann Miller of the Wholistic Defense Program on the Flathead Reservation in Montana (via Zoom) and others. On the second morning of the summit, Rose Salmanaca, a conciliation specialist with the Community Relations Service (CRS) of the US Department of Justice in Denver will discuss Solution Planning: Where to from here? Participation is free, but registration is required.

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