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Homelessness among Wyoming students grew 40 percent from the 2012-2013 to 2013-2014 school year, according to data released this week by the U.S. Department of Education.

That’s more than four times the average increase seen around the country—and means the number of homeless students in the Cowboy State has doubled since the recession.

Aaron Schrank

On July 18, a white city parks employee walked into Riverton’s Center of Hope detoxification center with a .40-caliber handgun and shot two Native American men in the head while they slept.

The confessed shooter, 32-year-old Roy Clyde, told police he was targeting transients who he perceived as a nuisance to the city’s public spaces.

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.

Aaron Schrank/WPR

All day Wednesday, volunteers will be canvassing Wyoming’s homeless shelters and streets in an effort to come up with a sort of homeless census.  

The annual effort is what’s called a homeless ‘point-in-time’ count. The results are used by agencies like the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine how much funding and assistance is needed in the state.

Brenda Lyttle with the Department of Family Services is Wyoming’s homeless coordinator. She says last year, Wyoming’s count of homeless residents was about one-thousand.

Aaron Schrank

The number of students experiencing homelessness in Wyoming has gone way up in recent years, but there are few resources for homeless Wyomingites—and almost none specific to youth. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank reports, public schools are on the front lines of identifying and advocating for these vulnerable young people.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded two grants of $1.4 million and $2 million to Wyoming to prevent homelessness among veterans.

Announced Monday, the grant will fund services provided by the Southwest Wyoming Recovery Access Program, or SW-WRAP, like housing counseling, legal assistance, temporary financial assistance, and childcare for veterans and their families.

Cathie Hughes, founder and CEO of SW-WRAP, said that making these services visible is one of the biggest challenges.  

There are just over a thousand homeless people in Wyoming, according to the state's annual survey. That's about the same as last year. On the day of the survey, around eighty percent of those people were in shelters.  The other twenty percent were living outside or in a place not meant for human habitation, like a car or an abandoned building.

Most were in Cheyenne, Casper, and Gillette, with a rising homeless population in Laramie.  

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.

Governor Matt Mead is hoping to create a ten-year plan to address homelessness in Wyoming. As a first step in the process, the Department of Family Services has appointed a homelessness coordinator. Her name is Brenda Lyttle.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with her. Lyttle says her first task will be to identify what services are already available to homeless individuals in different communities in Wyoming.

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.