Homeless citizens sometimes slept on the floor at the Wyoming Rescue Mission, but the organization’s executive director Brad Hopkins said he hopes those days are done.
The Christian nonprofit — which helps the homeless get back on their feet — officially opened its new Park Street Center facility Tuesday. The new structure can accommodate nearly 200 people per night, roughly twice as many as before.
During the grand opening ceremony, Hopkins told the crowd that the center was designed to communicate a sense of “dignity and value and worth” to every guest.
Gov. Matt Mead spoke at the event and praised the generosity of Casper’s residents.
People tend to inquire about the local economy when trying to evaluate their city, the governor said, but all too often, they forget to ask how they’re doing in regards to caring for their neighbors.
Mead said homelessness is an issue close to his heart. He said his great-grandfather fell on hard times as a young man and ended up with nowhere to live — until a Native American tribe in Idaho took him in one winter.
“He taught me it was important to give back,” Mead said.
The governor also acknowledged that can it be difficult to admit you need assistance and he applauded those who take that step.
“It takes a certain amount of courage to come and say, ‘I need help,’” he said.
The nonprofit broke ground on the new 22,000 square foot facility last November. In addition to more beds, it also offers a larger kitchen and dining area, as well as classrooms and spaces where clients can meet with case managers.
Hopkins said last year that the Wyoming Rescue Mission is the only emergency shelter for hundreds of miles. There are shelters in Cheyenne, Jackson and Gillette, but many people experiencing homelessness make their way to Casper and the mission, even if they have to hitchhike.
Approximately three quarters of the mission’s clients are Wyoming residents, according to Hopkins. Between July 2015 and June 2016, the mission provided more than 26,000 beds to those in need and more than 41,000 meals, according to its 2016 annual report.