Wyoming officials have released the state’s first comprehensive plan to combat homelessness. Titled  “A Home for Everyone,” it lays out the state’s strategy for the next decade. It has been in the works for the last year and half. Wyoming Public Radio’s Miles Bryan sat down with Wyoming homeless services coordinator Brenda Lyttle to talk about the plan.

Wyoming’s first comprehensive plan to tackle homelessness was released on Thursday.

Titled “A Home for Everyone,” the fifty-six page document lays out a strategy for how Wyoming will tackle homelessness over the next ten years.

This year, state officials counted 757 homeless people in Wyoming. Few were counted in the western half of the state, where according to the plan, there are no homeless services outside of Jackson.

Jordan Giese

The Casper Housing Authority is wrapping up the first year of its Housing First Program. It was designed to give the chronically homeless places to live before tackling other issues like addiction and illness.

The program was started last March with 10 homes and 14 participants. Four of them have dropped out of the program, but nine people now have permanent housing and one has completely graduated from the program, and has moved into housing without assistance from the state.

Since 2010, homelessness has gone down in most places in the U.S., but not in Wyoming. A national report found that in 2013 Wyoming had nearly a thousand homeless people, up 64-percent in that time. About a quarter of those people are chronically homeless. Now, Casper wants to try a program focused on helping those individuals. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

A homeless task force has found that Laramie has 124 homeless people and no homeless shelters. United Way of Albany County Executive Director Paul Heimer says there are programs that address homelessness in the city but they’re targeted to specific populations, for example domestic violence victims.

“But there was no kind of traditional homeless shelter. Our policy seemed to be a bus ticket out of town and a motel room for a short stay if you were lucky,” says Heimer.

He says many people’s need aren’t met.

Governor Matt Mead is calling for a state-wide plan to address homelessness in Wyoming, and the Department of Family Services has appointed a homelessness coordinator to help with that process.

Brenda Lyttle says part of her job will be to find out what services are already available to homeless individuals in different communities, and help connect those services across the state.

The Cheyenne Police Department has wrapped up a program that was intended to help the homeless get access to shelter and other services, and keep them out of jail.

The Homeless Empowerment Action Team, or HEAT, consisted of police officers and Robin Zimmer, the director of the COMEA homeless shelter. They went around town, informed homeless people of laws about loitering and panhandling, and told them about available social services.

But most individuals declined shelter or other help. Zimmer says that’s because many were alcoholics, and the only shelter in town is dry.

The Cheyenne Police Department has launched an initiative that’s meant to help the homeless get access to shelter and other services, and keep them out of jail. The cops and the one shelter in town are optimistic about the program. But various advocacy groups have major concerns. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.