The mayor of Wyoming’s second-largest city says the community is struggling under the weight of an increasing homeless population.
Casper, Wyoming, situated in central Wyoming, has a regular population of over 60,000 people, making it the state’s biggest city outside of Cheyenne, with a population of around 65,000. Casper’s mayor, Bruce Knell, claims that over 200 homeless people have relocated into the city lately, inflicting millions of dollars worth of damage, particularly at a closed hotel.
In November 2016, a Casper, Wyoming, Econo Lodge was severely flooded after frozen pipes broke. Almost all the 300-room motel’s first floor was inundated, including the electrical switch panel. The bank that owned the building shortly after had it condemned and boarded up to prevent break-ins.
The plan backfired badly. Even more damage was done when homeless vagrants, some of whom may have been bused into the city, broke into the abandoned hotel.
Knell also said that municipal employees in Casper’s downtown have had to clean up around 500 pounds of human excrement. People experiencing homelessness have also impacted local parks and bike lanes.
The mayor said, “I’ve never seen anything like that.” The events in Casper, Wyoming, “are like something out of a third-world nation.”
Knell believes the city council can assist in reducing homelessness by legislating against many of the unlawful practices that contribute to the problem.
Some suggested restrictions include restricting the time squatters may remain on a property, even if they have been granted permission, and forcing would-be squatters first to get consent from property owners.
Knell said, “Our cops need some teeth to begin dealing with the squatters.”
Casper has a homeless shelter called Wyoming Rescue Mission, but many of the city’s poor also have mental health and substance abuse problems that preclude them from staying there temporarily.
A portion of the homeless population “does not wish to comply with the laws of society,” according to Knell. This might be due to drug addiction or mental illness.
Whatever the issue’s root, it’s causing significant frustration among city dwellers. Last summer, in response to some of their concerns, the city council formed the Homeless Coalition, a group of community leaders charged with investigating the issue in more depth and offering possible solutions.