The Wyoming State Department of Health and Human Services has provided $52,000 to the Wyoming Homeless Collaborative for a statewide study examining homelessness.
“We sent a proposal to (former) Gov. Matt Mead and he was able to locate some funding with the Department of Health right before he left office,” board member Robin Bocanegra said.
The collaborative is a statewide organization made up of homeless service providers, public service agencies and formerly homeless individuals who work together to end homelessness.
Bocanegra said the organization recently hired Dr. Robert Marbut — a professional consultant from Dallas with more than 30 years of experience examining homelessness — to conduct the study. Marbut will visit the state several times during the next few months to meet with various shelter operators, medical providers, homeless individuals and police departments.
“He’s going to see how easy or difficult it is to navigate our services,” Bocanegra said. “Once he concludes the study, he will prepare about a 45-page summary of his findings and recommendations. Then he plans to make a public presentation that will probably take place in Cheyenne.”
Assisting homeless individuals in Wyoming can be especially challenging due to the state’s larger size and low population, she said, explaining that it can be difficult to help or communicate with people in rural areas.
“We are doing the best that we can, but (Marbut) is going to help us figure out how we can do better,” she said.
Karla McClaren, the statewide homeless coordinator, shared similar sentiments in the homeless collaborative’s press release about the study.
“This study will enable us to gain a clearer picture of homelessness across the state, not just in Cheyenne and Casper,” she said. “Dr. Marbut’s experience and expertise will be of great value to Wyoming not only in understanding the scope of the issue but also through his recommendations for responding to the results of the study.”
Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded its annual funding to each state to support homelessness programs, including $288,790 for Wyoming.
Christine Baumann, HUD’s regional public affairs specialist, said at the time that homelessness is a critical issue that should not be ignored.
“We have a lot of people — including veterans, families with children or persons with disabilities — who need help,” she said. “We have to make sure that we are taking into consideration that there are some people who can’t obtain stable housing on their own.”