Counting Wyoming's Homeless Population

Jan 29, 2016

Homeless people line up for lunch, and to fill out surveys, at Cheyenne's Depot Plaza during the Point-in-Time Count.

Wyoming’s annual attempt to tally the state’s homeless population took place on Wednesday.

Known as the “Point-in-Time Count,” it's a 24-hour effort to count everyone who is homeless. The count is mandated by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which uses the data to track the country’s homeless population, and divvy up funds for homeless services. Last year, Wyoming counted 798 people as homeless.

HUD requires the count to take place in January. The agency’s logic is that the cold means homeless people are more likely to be in a shelter--where it’s easier to count them. But Wyoming Homelessness Coordinator Brenda Lyttle says many homeless people in Wyoming can find shelter with friends or in a motel on cold nights, and that can be a problem for getting an accurate number.

“If they are doubling up with someone, if they are staying with a family member or a friend for a few nights, we can’t count them as homeless,” Lyttle said. “Even though they probably are.”

Lyttle says Wyoming plans to do another count, unaffiliated with HUD, of homeless people this summer.