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CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper City Council on Tuesday night urged the Wyoming Association of Municipalities to encourage statewide participation in the biennial homeless count.

“Homelessness can be a deadly problem,” Councilwoman Kim Holloway said as she explained how and why the homeless count is conducted.

The count is mandated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to occur at least every other year.

The latest count was conducted Jan. 26; it identified 625 people in Casper alone as homeless. That is more than the 515 identified across the entire state in 2009.

The council’s resolution was an effort to increase the amount of information available to help improve policy decisions regarding homelessness.

For the count, local organizations — including the local branch of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Casper Housing Authority, Self Help Center, Community Action Partnership and others — take one day in late January to tally all the emergency shelter beds in the region and whether they are occupied.

Then, they perform a street count by walking the streets and seeking out any homeless who may be roughing it on their own.

Local groups have previously expressed concern that Wyoming does not receive all the federal funding it can because it does not keep accurate enough records on the number of homeless.

But HUD officials have said the homeless number itself does not necessarily dictate where federal money flows.

In Wyoming, HUD currently funds: the transitional housing program operated by the Community Action Partnership of Natrona County at the Life Steps Campus in Casper; Turning Point, a transitional housing program operated by the Self Help Center for victims of domestic violence; the Homeless Management Information System and a transitional housing program in Gillette.

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