Homeless Squatters Trash Closed Motel in Casper, Wyoming

AP Photo/Thomas Peipert

Casper is a pleasant little city located on the North Platte River in Natrona County, east-central Wyoming. I've been through the town a number of times and always found it a pleasant place, friendly and reasonably prosperous. Casper's economy is largely based on extraction (coal, oil, uranium) and support for local ranching.


While Casper is a small city, with fewer than 60,000 residents as of the last census, it has now been burdened with a problem we have come to associate with our major cities: homeless squatters destroying property.

A growing homeless population has the city of Casper taking notice, with what Mayor Bruce Knell estimates to be a population of around 200 people now roaming the city’s streets and parks, causing a situation he describes as “a mess.”

The Casper City Council is considering tightening its urban camping and squatting rules to make it less inviting for homeless people to take up shelter in the city, at least until the city can provide more mental health and substance abuse services for this population.

“We know very well we cannot litigate our way or arrest our way out of the problem, but our police need some teeth to start dealing with the squatting,” he said. “They’re just causing so many problems.”

We have come to associate this problem with blue cities (generally) in blue states, but Casper is as red as they come, having gone for Donald Trump by almost 72 percent to Joe Biden's 24 percent, and in 2022 Republican Harriet Hageman cleared the bar with almost 70 percent of the ballots.

But the problem is present in Casper, and it's causing property owners headaches.

One of the most glaring examples is destruction Knell said homeless people have done to the local Econo Lodge motel, which is vacant and had been previously foreclosed due to flooding. 

What the homeless people squatting there did to the property would cost millions to fix and is much worse than any damage caused by water, Knell said.

“They destroyed everything,” he said. “It’s horrible.”

The city had to condemn the property and the bank that owns the motel was forced to board it up to keep squatters out. 


Remove the "correct" language that even the Cowboy State Daily seems to drop in, and we are left with the fact that squatters are destroying private property. The city government should be protecting said property and, in so doing, the rights of the property owner, but it seems all too often these days that even in places like Casper, Wyoming, the government does not do that which it should. The fact is that these squatters should have been evicted the day they were discovered.

But Casper's problem is not limited to a single boarded-up motel.

Many homeless also loiter in downtown Casper. He said city staff have picked up around 500 pounds of human feces from around the downtown area.

Others occupy local parks and bike paths, while some are less visible and sleep in their cars.

Knell also attributes a certain amount of crime to the homeless population. 

“In desperate times people do desperate things, and unfortunately we’re the ones left having to deal with it,” he said.

The statement that really stands out here is in the first sentence: "...city staff have picked up around 500 pounds of human feces..." That's an absolutely intolerable situation. The ancient Romans knew better; Casper, like so many other cities with a homeless problem, will sooner or later be facing a serious disease outbreak because of this.

The city's proposed solutions, listed in the article, are essentially the application of a sticking-plaster to an open chest wound. This problem will continue until sterner steps are taken. They don't have to be inhumane; if housing is required, a tent city on the prairie would be a good option. One can live quite comfortably in an old surplus Army GP Large (I should know, I've done it) and that would take Casper's homeless off the streets and into an enclosed environment where they can get the treatment for their addictions and mental health issues that they so clearly need.



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