Home on the Range: Homelessness and Affordable Housing in Wyoming, Part 2

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Monday News 13 showed you some of what homelessness looks like in our community. There are also people and groups that are helping. One factor in homelessness is the lack of housing availability, especially at a low-income level.

In part two of "Home on the Range," News 13 looks at some programs that are helping bring and keep people home, before it gets to the point of homelessness.

Heidi Schaible is a single mom to two bubbly kids. She grew up in Central Wyoming, graduated from UW, and has a fulfilling career in social work. "Basically, helping foster kiddos who are aging out of the system and into independence," Schaible said. But her income still didn't cover her family's expenses. She was lucky enough to have a supportive mother who allowed her and her children to live with her for a while.

"It was frustrating you know, knowing that... what I worked so hard for wasn't enough. So really it was the opportunity for housing assistance that made it feel like I was doing enough," Schaible said.

Heidi's family got the assistance they needed in the form of a housing voucher, which essentially pays for a portion of the rent. But a lot of people are still waiting, and motels and apartments in Casper shutting down isn't helping.

But some solutions are also coming: For example the Casper Housing Authority purchased the recently-condemned Star Apartments. "We're hoping in the next few months that we'll be able to begin construction, we're working with all our partners on that project, and that will be one way to diversify income for the housing authority," said Casper Housing Authority Executive Director Kim Summerall-Wright.

And other groups are helping meet demand, like the Wyoming Housing Network, which just opened new income-based housing built in part thanks to tax credits. "I think we have to demonstrate to our partners and and to the city that we will do what we say we're going to do, that what we're building is very attractive, to the community, that it's safe, it's clean, the tenants that we have are you know... People just like you and me!" said Wyoming Housing Network Director Connie Baker-Wolfe.

But at the same time, the Casper Housing Authority suffered federal budget cuts last year, which means 100 fewer vouchers and higher rent for public housing as the need grows. "Our waiting list is over a thousand family units. Those are all people who qualify and are in need of assistance," Summerall-Wright said.

For Schaible, asking for help was difficult at first, but then it came down to a simple choice: "It's just one of those things that you have to overcome what people think, and realize that providing for your kids is so much more valid," Schaible said.

Wednesday night, watch News 13 for the third and final part of "Home on the Range," where we'll look at some of the solutions to homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in Wyoming, and why a decision from the governor may have helped rally the troops.