Mayor Bruce Knell has voiced his concerns and frustration during recent interviews with local media, stating that the homeless population in Casper, Wyoming, is causing property damage and leaving a significant disorder in its wake.
Casper, Wyoming, the second-largest city in the state with a population of 58,543, grapples with a homeless population of approximately 200 people. A significant portion of these individuals arrived in Casper with the aim of securing a spot in the local homeless shelter, only to face rejection or eviction after initial approval.
Consequently, they find themselves residing in vehicles, lingering in public spaces, or occupying unoccupied structures lacking essential amenities such as electricity and running water.
Squatters inflicted extensive damage, resulting in millions of dollars in harm to an empty motel. Consequently, the city declared the building unfit for use. The bank, which owns the property, took measures to secure it by boarding it up, citing the hazardous conditions caused by the squatters.
Mayor Knell emphasizes that the homeless population leaves disorder in their wake wherever they congregate, with litter strewn across the ground. Notably, the city had to undertake the unpleasant task of cleaning approximately 500 pounds of human waste from a downtown area that homeless individuals frequently occupy.
Casper makes earnest efforts to assist individuals without stable housing options. While a shelter is available, it comes with specific regulations that a significant portion of the homeless population either cannot or chooses not to adhere to. Mayor Knell attributes this non-compliance primarily to substance abuse and mental health challenges.
Additionally, The Salvation Army extends its support by offering beds and essential services to the homeless. However, Knell asserts that the core issue lies with those who decline to embrace a conventional lifestyle by remaining free of substance abuse, attending educational sessions, and undergoing job training.
The city council is considering amendments to local regulations related to camping and squatting. These changes aim to provide law enforcement with the necessary means to effectively address certain criminal activities associated with the homeless population.
Additionally, Mayor Knell has expressed the view that there is a need for an increased availability of mental health services to support individuals who come to Casper seeking assistance from homeless resources.