The mayor of Casper, Wyoming, Bruce Knell, recently voiced concerns over the deteriorating conditions of some areas of the city due to homeless squatters. Speaking to Cowboy State Daily, Mayor Knell expressed his shock at the magnitude of the situation, likening it to “third world-country conditions” unfolding in a city as significant as Casper.
With a population nearing 60,000, making it Wyoming’s second-most populous city, Casper has a relatively small homeless population of around 200. However, their impact has been substantial—one prominent incident involved homeless individuals occupying a previously flood-damaged Econo Lodge motel. According to Mayor Knell, the aftermath of their stay led to damages amounting to millions of dollars. Other homeless individuals have taken to inhabiting abandoned houses devoid of basic amenities like water and electricity.
Expanding on the motel’s situation, Knell stated that it was already uninhabitable following the flood. The squatters, however, further exacerbated the building’s condition. Following foreclosure, a bank currently owns the property, which now stands boarded up. Additionally, Mayor Knell highlighted a mounting concern in the city’s downtown area – the accumulation of at least 500 pounds of human waste due to loitering squatters.
Addressing potential solutions, Knell pointed out the limitations of legal actions or arrests. He emphasized the need to empower the police force with more authority to manage squatting issues. A proposal is currently underway in the city council, which, if adopted, would necessitate squatters to procure written consent from homeowners and impose camping duration restrictions on properties.
Furthermore, Mayor Knell shared insights into the correlation between the squatters and the city’s crime rate. He emphasized the role of desperation in driving unlawful actions and highlighted the challenges faced by the city. Knell clarified that the local homeless shelter wasn’t the root problem despite the evident issues. Instead, the challenges arose mainly from individuals who either couldn’t secure a place in the shelter or were expelled due to their refusal to comply with societal norms, often stemming from substance abuse or mental health concerns.
In closing, Knell acknowledged the aspirations of many homeless individuals, not just in Casper but also those migrating from the West Coast, who simply seek a place to call home. “They’re as exasperated with the situation as we are,” he remarked.