Casper Agencies Count And Assist The Homeless During ‘Point-In-Time’ Event
Lori Denoma had a normal life, until she didn't.
"I have never been in this kind of situation before, I'm not used to it," Denoma said at the First United Methodist Church's King's Corner building at First and Beech streets on Friday.
"It was a punch in the gut," she said.
"You wouldn't guess I would be homeless if I was me walking down the street and talking to you, because you have to put on a facade," Denoma said. "But inside it's horrible."
She was laid off from her job in the tourist town of Hot Springs, S.D. Other circumstances forced her to realize she could no longer remain there. So she and her fiance, who wasn't expecting this either, traveled to Casper where she has some family members, Denoma said. "So, boom, I am homeless."
Family members told her about the Wyoming Rescue Mission where she has been staying. That's been hard on her relationship because the mission segregates the sexes, but she understands why, she said.
She had to swallow her pride of not needing help when she went to the mission and again on Friday when she walked to King's Corner on the "point-in-time" count event. There, local and state government agencies and non-profit organizations tallied the number of homeless people in their communities and offered them services.
Gov. Matt Mead said Thursday the canvass is an important part of the state's 10-year program to identify and address the problems of homelessness. "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.”
The count itself, administered by volunteers overseen in part by Seton House, was among the agencies offering help to the homeless. They included Serve Wyoming, Celebrate Recovery, Self-Help Center, NOWCAP, Central Wyoming Counseling Center, Interfaith, the Wyoming Veterans Commission, Poverty Resistance, the Casper Housing Authority, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, and dozens more.
The intake process for the count starts with a question about where the person will be sleeping tonight, other people in the person's household, age, race, military service, medical needs, substance abuse issues, and crimes against them. Public agencies will use the confidential data to request federal funding for homeless programs.
Denoma said the process was initially daunting, but it offered more help than she thought possible.
She received a flu shot, toiletries, towels, food, blankets, "everything to make things more comfortable," and a haircut, she said. Her barber, Courtney Hickle of the Casper Re-entry Center, also gave her hair care products to help her through the week.
Denoma is serious about moving on, she said. "I'm just trying to work my way up, get a job, and eventually have my own place."
Later in the day, event organizer Brandy Smouse of the Casper Housing Authority, said the turnout far exceeded her expectations and hopes to keep an outreach going in the community.
It always will be a struggle to serve the homeless but Smouse said she sees hope with what agencies are doing for shelter, food and transportation. "It's an opportunity to find out what your resources are, and at least try and help make a dent in the community for these people."