Some business leaders concerned about rise in homelessness

A local businesswoman describes some of the problems she and other owners are facing, in light of growing homelessness.
Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 6:35 PM CDT
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - A few weeks ago, we told you about the hour-long discussion at a Casper City Council meeting, revolving around the growing homeless issues in the city. In this follow-up report, I spoke with a local business leader to hear their concerns.

Besides being a businesswoman, Deb Clark is a part of Casper’s Downtown Development Authority. She describes some of the problems local business owners are facing, in light of the growing homeless population.

“People sleeping in doors and lobbies and stairwells. Theft, shoplifting is increasing. Illicit activities in alleys or behind buildings. Certainly loitering, vandalism. Public consumption of drugs and alcohol.”

At a meeting in July, Clark explained to city council that she feels throwing a bunch of money towards more shelters... May not be the best response. “When we expand the services to meet the needs of those we have here, then a lot of the communities that are around us, will employ these homeless relocation programs... Will say, ‘Oh great, Casper has more services. So let’s go ahead and send some of our people there.’”

Clark says the Casper DDA has more than just the business owners in mind, though. “We don’t want to see our business owners get hurt. We don’t want to see our families discouraged from coming downtown. We really do want to make it our... Our primary purpose is to be able to make sure that our downtown is safe, and clean, and healthy, and prosperous. For everyone.”

Though Clark and other business leaders would love to see the issue of homelessness limited if not eliminated, she says... It’s not because they’re cold-hearted.

“Sometimes we hear we want to outlaw homelessness. And honestly, that’s not what it’s about. I, along with just about everyone, have had issues like homelessness, and mental illness, and addiction. So it’s not that we’re coming at this from a place of no compassion. We do, very much (have compassion). But what we have to bring as well is... A realism. And an acknowledgement that for every action we take, there is going to be a reaction. So we need to get together and we need to think about what kind of a Casper it is we want to live in. We need to make our decision. And go from there.”