Annual homeless count held in Wyoming - KOTA Territory News

Annual homeless count held in Wyoming

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When times get tough and people like Noel Belleres of Sheridan are forced to move into a homeless shelter it is important to know what kind of help is available.

"They're helping us through finding a place, people that we can talk to that could possibly help us get on our feet," said Belleres.

On Wednesday volunteers in Wyoming visited with the homeless population to give them information and track their numbers.

"This data is used for us to apply for different funds to help support different types of housing programs," said Wendy Ongaro with the Wyoming Homeless Collaborative.

Two years ago the homeless count in Sheridan County was 234. Last year it dropped to 162 as employment numbers improved, but there are still many who don't get counted.

"It's hard to find folks who are homeless. For one thing in Wyoming, a lot of people who are experiencing homelessness don't think of themselves as homeless. They just think that they're going through hard times," said Ongaro.

Volunteers also talked to the general public about some misconceptions.

"Homelessness to most Wyomingites is an urban issue. Unfortunately it's not. 80 percent of people who are homeless are just like you and me. They've experienced a job loss, a bad divorce, a medical condition, a bad accident, and as a result of that they've lost everything that they own," said Ongaro.

Belleres fell behind on his bills after he couldn't find a job to support his family, which includes his wife and two daughters. But he's glad to have a roof over their heads at the Volunteers of America Homeless Shelter and he hopes others in similar situations find the help they need.

"There are sources and places that can help you, especially the VOA. The sources that they have really do help you down the line," said Belleres.

Last year Wyoming Governor Matt Mead appointed the state's first ever homeless coordinator to develop a ten year plan to address homelessness and better coordinate state and local services.

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