CASPER, Wyo. – Even on the coldest nights of the year, there are dozens of people in Natrona County sleeping on the street.
The goal of the annual Point In Time count is to find out exactly how many, and to offer them help.
“On any given night in Natrona County, there are at least this many people homeless,” said Allison Maluchnik, program manager at Serve Wyoming, “because this time of year most people are housed if they can be.”
This year’s count was done in conjunction with the Project Homeless Connect organized by Serve Wyoming, and Point In Time, organized by the Self Help Center. Both combined their volunteers under one roof at King’s Corner starting Thursday night and continuing through Friday, January 24.
“We have had about 100 volunteers this year,” said Maluchnik, “about 75 for Project Homeless Connect and around 30 for Point In Time count.”
Maluchnik said last year’s count was down from the previous year, and more people were sheltered at the Wyoming Rescue Mission and other shelters.
She said the trend was up this year, but said the milder weather could be a factor.
As of Monday there were 16 people “doubled up,” meaning sleeping on friends or family’s couches, 14 living in vehicles, and 12 on the street. In addition volunteer spotted a few others who appeared homeless but couldn’t make contact.
For the count, volunteers canvass the county and look for signs of homeless activity, such as sleeping bags or other essentials tucked away in places like alleyways, under bridges and along the river.
Other volunteers looked for homeless people on the CATC bus system.
Volunteers encouraged homeless people they did contact to drop by King’s Corner for food, to sign up for services and help themselves to clothing and other supplies that had been donated.
Volunteer Michael Joseph Nobles started looking early on Friday morning, focusing along the North Platte River.
“We talked to one person out there that was headed this way about where he slept last night, and he slept under the bridge at the Ramada On the River,” said Nobles. “It was solid ice out there, freezing cold temperatures.”
Nobles found signs of homeless camps near Crossroads Park.
“Others were kind of hesitant to talk to us because they thought we would throw them in jail, even though we’re just trying to help and get the word out,” said Nobles. “We let them know we’re thinking of you, care about you and will help you any way we can.”