Natrona County Grant Initiative Targets Homelessness, Substance Abuse

Natrona County Grant Initiative Targets Homelessness, Substance Abuse

Thirteen men and women of varying ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and histories will decide how to use $230,000 in grant funding to help make Natrona County a safe and thriving community and reduce homelessness and substance abuse.

“Unless you’ve been involved in the justice system, you don’t really know how to navigate it successfully,” said Kristy Oster, director of community engagement for the Natrona Collective Health Trust.

“The unique expertise that all of these individuals bring to the table is the best way to help their justice-involved peers become healthy, thriving members of society,” Oster said.

After three meetings and several hours of discussions, the group identified four potential funding areas: housing, transportation, peer support and mental health.

“The Wyoming Counseling Center and Seton House have been a huge help in my journey,” said Joanna Clement, a participant. “But Casper has a lot of great resources. It seems like everyone really wants to engage with people who are struggling with addictions and end up in the system.”

“There is no judgment. Mental health and addiction go hand in hand,” Clement said.

Known as crowdfunding, the practice of relying on people with lived experience to allocate grant funds is used by philanthropic organizations across the country, including the Alliance for Safety and Justice and the Public Welfare Foundation.

This is the Trust’s second round of participatory grants, following a youth-focused round that ended in spring 2023. All participants are compensated for their time and expertise throughout the process.

Currently attending Casper College, Clement plans to pursue a career in social work or the medical field, where she believes her lived experience will be an advantage.

“I know the obstacles and the solutions that can help me. Peer support means I can’t keep making excuses. It’s easier to stand up for yourself and tell the truth. (The crowdfunding system) gives me hope that there are actually solutions. It makes me fight harder,” she said.

From July 29 to August 11, 2024, applications for justice-related grants will be open to local nonprofit organizations with proposals in one of four priority areas via the Trust’s website.

National Military Vehicle Museum in Dubois, Wyoming

All photos used with permission from Dan Starks, the founder.

Photo credits: Kolby Fedore, Townsquare Media

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