Scores of people lined up for lunch during the noon hour for the annual "Project Homeless Connect Natrona County" downtown from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday.

"It's a one-stop shop for the homeless or nearly homeless to come in and connect with community resources and get donations, have a hot meal, get a free haircut, talk to legal aid, and just different services around here including dental, medical and public health," said Lori Burns of the Casper Housing Authority.

The Housing Authority coordinates the event with about 30 other social services organizations, many of which had booths offering clothing, blankets, toiletries and other items, Burns said.

Most of the activity happened at the First United Methodist Church's King's Corner building at South Beech and East First Streets, but the medical and dental services were offered in the church itself.

In the basement of the church, registered nurse Hilary Cage took a blood sample from a client, and then gave her a flu shot. Cage works at the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.

The most important part of the event is the "point in time" homeless count Friday when government and non-profit organizations canvass neighborhoods to count the number of homeless people.

Gov. Matt Mead announced the program a year ago. "The 'point-in-time' count is important because it gives us an idea rather than guessing the magnitude of the situation," Mead said then. "Every year we get a better and better idea. The numbers will change up and down, but part of it is, without the point-in-time count we were just guessing about the need."

Some of the homeless were surveyed at King's Corner, and the Casper Housing Authority and other agencies roamed nearby neighborhoods for the count.

Burns said the Housing Authority does its work year-round with its Hub Project.

The project allows the homeless to come in and register for a mail box and for a voice mail box, she said. "They can use our computers."

"We have this hub project that serves the homeless every single day.

"Homeless" is different from "near homeless," Burns added.

The U.S. Department of Housing deems a "homeless" person as one who slept last night without a roof over their head, she said.

"Near homeless" refers to a person who stays from house to house or "couch-surfs," stays overnight in a car, storage unit or something other than a house, she said.

For more information, contact the Casper Housing Authority, 145 N. Durbin St.

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