Tension with Homeless in Public Spaces

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The Casper Police Department has been called several times over the past couple weeks to the Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Lately, the police have been called to take care of homeless people who are publicly intoxicated, and in one case, exposing themselves. In many situations, however, the authority of the police to move people is limited because the area is public property.

Many of these homeless citizens said they simply don't have anywhere else to go.

“There’s a lot of homeless people around here, and some do sleep around here in bushes and around the benches, because we ain't got no place to go. And I'm one of them,” said Monalisa Gonzalez, starting to tear up. “And... I wish I had a place to go. But I don't.”

Police said they get called to the Nic Museum area on a daily basis.

“It's all hours, patrol guys are finding them during the middle of the day, late at night, early morning hours,” said Mike Ogden, Sergeant of Investigations.

Ogden explained that police just want to keep people safe, but Gonzalez said she doesn't feel safe.

Nic Art Museum staff said they hope the situation won't detract from its family friendly environment.

“[We hope families are] not being inferred with or made to feel uncomfortable by someone who is overly intoxicated, or simply not presenting themselves in a way that is comfortable to a family environment,” said Nic Executive Director Mary Koernig.

This wasn't the first time that Koernig has had to call police for homeless people loitering around the museum. “We've asked the police to come and help us with that intervention to be sure that they are not damaging property, and that they are escorted off the property.”

Gonzalez insisted that all homeless people do not behave alike. “Some people come over here, and they drink and they trash the place,” she explained. “Me and my son, we come over here and at the gazebo and clean the place up.”

Casper Police have increased patrols around the area, and they stress that they are not targeting the homeless. But when there are cases of public intoxication and public indecencies, it’s their duty to protect all members of the public and to allow everyone to enjoy the parks.