We tend to think of homelessness as something that happens to other people. But living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for many in our community. All it takes to tumble from stable housing to homelessness is a serious illness, a job loss or an abusive spouse.
We also tend to think of homelessness as simply people living on the street. To be sure, there are hundreds of people in Wyoming in such a situation. But there are also people who have nowhere to go save for a cheap motel or a friend’s couch.
And homelessness is not simply a problem that affects adults. According to federal figures, more than 1,600 Wyoming K-12 students were homeless during the 2016-17 school year. Think of how difficult school can be for a student with a stable home. Now imagine the challenges facing a child that, along with everything else, has to worry about where he or she might sleep that night.
Given that reality, it was heartening to learn that the Casper Housing Authority will receive $500,000 in 1-cent funding to reestablish its transitional housing program for families. The money will support 17 family units for four years at Casper’s Lifesteps Campus.
The program is designed to serve multiple needs. It will provide emergency housing – something that is in short supply for homeless families in Casper. In fact, there have been times in the past where families have been turned away for lack of space.
It will also serve as a bridge between an emergency shelter and permanent housing. It represents a chance for families to regroup and get back on their feet, with an eye toward a more stable life.
That transitional housing is essential. Not only is it the moral thing for a community to provide, but it also improves the likelihood that a family will avoid chronic homeless and all of the ills that comes with it. A relatively small investment with a program like this is likely to save money and heartache in the long run.
Casper Housing Authority is one part of a larger network of organizations in our community that work to provide places for people with no place to go. We often take for granted that such groups exist, even though they offer services that are essential for a community like ours to function. This funding decision offers us a reminder of the critical work they do. And for that we can only say: thank you.