The Voice of COMEA

Ken

We met Ken on a street corner where he was hanging out with a number of other homeless men, all intoxicated. Ken was under the impression that the shelter could not help him because he has an income, but had lost his ID and bank card and had no way of accessing his money. He agreed to get sober and come give us a chance. The day Ken arrived at COMEA, he was sober but had not had a shower in over 10 days. He had not had a haircut or shave in over 2 years. Within the first 30 days at COMEA, Ken was able to get his ID and banking information, got a haircut and shaved his 10 inch beard and moved into his own apartment at COMEA. Ken worked part-time for COMEA and volunteered a number of hours helping to give back. We discovered that Ken is living on a small insurance settlement from an accident that left him without a hand and a section of his skull. He has never applied for disability but is doing so now. Ken was a productive and important part of our staff and merely needed a simple hand up and the notion that people believed in him.

Zack

Zack came to COMEA in October of 2016, the very same day he was released from prison after 5 years. From his first day here, Zack wanted to help out, make a difference, and change his situation. He accomplished this by always volunteering and maintaining a seasonal job through the winter to eventually purchasing his own motor home and becoming a full-time maintenance and janitorial staff at COMEA.

Understanding Homelessness

People experiencing homelessness may feel isolated, alienated, and often discriminated against because of misconceptions about homelessness, in addition to having nowhere to call home. We hope this page will help you understand homelessness.

How Many People are Homeless in Our Community

According to the 2016 HUD mandated Point In Time Count, there are 319 homeless adults in Laramie county.  Wyoming Department of Education estimates that there are over 350 homeless children in Laramie County in grades K-12.  Early childhood numbers are not tracked but Stride Learning Center is currently serving 16 homeless families who have children with special needs.  These numbers are all considered to be low as we are only able to count the people we come in contact with on the day of the count.

What Causes Homelessness?

There is no one cause of homelessness, family tragedies: the loss of a loved one, domestic violence and divorce.  Health impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness or post-traumatic stress disorder and physical disabilities are a large portion of homelessness. Foreclosure, unemployment, lack of affordable housing or something as” simple” as a broken vehicle or lack of vehicle insurance, can render a family homeless.  Even a natural disaster can render families homeless.
Housing
Employment
Health
$992: Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Cheyenne, WY
89.5: Hours per week a minimum wage earner must work to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Cheyenne
1 in 3 homeless people suffer from mental illness, physical disability or substance abuse.
Fair market rent for a three-bedroom apartment per year in Cheyenne would be $15,600.
People in the lowest paying jobs spend 50% to 70% of their income on rent.
Ongoing health issues, including disabilities and mental illness can prevent some people from earning an income and contributes to their homelessness

Want to help to end homelessness in our community? Helping individuals and families?
Be part of the solution: by donating or volunteering your time at
COMEA 307-634-3174

May 2017 Mail Appeal

Dear Friends:

My name is Robin and I have been the director of COMEA and a member of this community for seven years.  Living in Cheyenne has truly been a blessing to me and my family and I am grateful for the opportunities Wyoming has provided for us. Very recently, I had the life changing experience of traveling to Bolivia with my church to participate in a mission project. When I learned we would be serving the homeless, addicted, abused, and poverty stricken of Cochabamba, a city of 1.2 million people, I decided this was something I needed to experience.

Thirty hours of travel, including lay-overs, four different flights, and no sleep, brought me to a place I could never have imagined.  My first thought was “oh how beautiful the landscape” which was quickly replaced with “oh what is that smell”? I was soon introduced to sub-standard plumbing and  contaminated water, a lack of animal control, no traffic laws, cultural differences both good and bad and people not so different from folks back home. The first few days were filled with prep work and organization.  But by day four, we were sitting with drug addicts under a bridge when I realized I could easily be under the bridge at Missile Drive and Lincolnway. Our day at the domestic abuse shelter reminded me of Safe House in Cheyenne and serving dinner to the homeless at City of Refuge felt like serving dinner at COMEA.

Not everything reminded me of home though. The severe poverty found at the “dump” in Kara Kara was worse than anything I had ever seen on TV or elsewhere.  Families of 6-8 children, living in a one room shed with no floor, no water and no electricity was common. Families all sleeping in the same bed and never knowing if they would eat the next day seemed normal. Parents abandoning their children when they could no longer provide for them was nearly expected. I felt ashamed for all that I have and take for granted back home. There is no Housing Authority to help with section 8 housing, no food stamps to supplement food, and no utility assistance to keep the lights on. There is no Head Start, day care assistance or latchkey  programs for children. Education is not a right and families must pay for their children to attend. One “sleep shelter” serves the entire city’s homeless population.

How can this be, I wondered? I felt hopeless and tired just watching from the sidelines. How do people survive this lifestyle? This is when the difference between them and us became obvious. “In Bolivia”, the missionary said, “the cultural attitude is every man for himself”. “The wealthy do not take care of the poor and the government does not provide programs for assistance”.

Later that night, back at the mission house, we were sharing our thoughts from the day. I didn’t feel pleased by the “good works” we had done that day nor did I feel proud of our efforts. I realized that broken is broken and poor is poor regardless of where you are. I realized that the problem of hurting people is bigger than me or anyone else. I thought again about home, in Cheyenne Wyoming and the work I do there every day. I thought about the men and women living under the bridge, in shelters and on the street. And then I remembered the biggest, most important difference.  In Cheyenne, we take care of those less fortunate. We don’t carry the “every man for himself” attitude: those who “have”, give to those who “have not” . Because of this generous community, COMEA is able to provide important services to our city’s most vulnerable, broken and lost.

Traveling to Bolivia was an amazing experience and one I will never forget.  I’ve been back to work at COMEA for a few weeks now and continue to think about the people I met and tragedy I witnessed. The resilience of the people is encouraging and  inspiring…but at the end of the day, Cheyenne is where I have been called to serve and I’m good with that.

Thank you for giving so generously and for continuing to support the work of COMEA here at home. We could not continue without you.

COMEA House & Resource Center 1504 Stinson Avenue, Cheyenne, WY 82001 Phone: 307.632.3174 Fax: 307.635.5240