Four groups request community service funding to provide housing support, substance abuse treatment in Riverton

    Four of the local organizations that requested community service funding from the City of Riverton this year provide assistance to people struggling with homelessness and substance abuse issues.

    The newest organization among the four is the Wind River Refuge – a transitional safe home for women fleeing domestic violence.

    “Just about 50 percent of all women and children who are homeless, are homeless because they’re fleeing domestic violence,” Wind River Refuge executive director Desiree Henderson told the Riverton City Council during a work session last week. “In Fremont County in 2021, there were about 1,700 calls received for domestic violence through just the sheriff’s department alone, and 300 of those calls were women seeking safe shelter – and we had none. …


    “There is no women’s shelter in our county. We’re one of the few counties in Wyoming that doesn’t have a women’s shelter.”

    The Fremont County Alliance Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault closed its emergency shelter in 2020, Henderson said, and while they still offer some emergency placement options for women fleeing domestic violence, those are “very brief,” so the Wind River Refuge – a ministry of Foundations for Nations – has stepped in to provide “transitional housing for women who are coming out of emergency placement.”

    “We are not emergency shelter,” Henderson said. “We’re transitional housing.”

    Clients are able to stay at Wind River Refuge for up to nine months, Henderson said – longer than the “typical 30-day model of most domestic violence homes.”


    “We really wanted to give women and their children time to heal, time to get some new skills, to get some good education about domestic violence, to get on their feet and break some cycles,” she said, explaining that, in “a lot” of domestic violence situations, the victim ends up going “from one abusive relationship to another.”

    “The cycle typically continues if you don’t get to the heart of the issue,” Henderson said. “We’d like to get to the heart of that and just really break cycles of violence that have been made normal in people’s families.”

    The Wind River Refuge has partnered with the Fremont County Alliance to ensure that trained, certified domestic violence advocates staff the local safe home, which offers programs providing counseling, case management, addiction rehabilitation, legal advocacy, and more.


    “We teach the women how to have a safety plan and see the signs of different abuses before they get into another relationship,” the Wind River Refuge funding request states. “Mentorship and training to learn life skills will be part of the program. Job training and employment services will as well. When the women leave the program, they will have a plan and skills to move forward in their lives.”

    Wind River Refuge requested $75,000 from the City of Riverton this year to help purchase a 15-passenger van and pay down the mortgage on its facility, Henderson said.

    Eagles Hope Transitions and the Center of Hope – organizations that provide support and temporary housing to people struggling with addiction – each requested $55,000 from the city this year.


    The Center of Hope said it would use the funding to “bolster and enhance the general operations of maintaining social detox beds in Riverton.”

    Social detox is often the “first line of intake for our clients” who are unsure “where to start with their treatment journey,” Center of Hope program director Brad Hendry explained.

    Once they’re sober, he said, clients can be “evaluated for in-patient care, and we’re able to house them for a time while they wait for their bed date.”

    Clients are able to return to the Center of Hope after they complete in-patient treatment, too, Hendry said, staying at the facility for “up to six months as they try to get back on their feet and learn (new) skills and put those skills into practice.”

    Eagles Hope director Michelle Widmayer said her group would use the money it requested to help cover utilities and property insurance at its transitional housing facility in Riverton, where “residents acquire knowledge, skills, and guidance to access and utilize available services to become healthy, productive members of Fremont County.”

    “Eagles Hope Transitions provides a safe and sober living environment that allows all patrons to maintain dignity and respect and develop long-term personal and financial responsibility,” she said. “The longer an individual stays, the more successful they are to transition and become self-sustainable.”

    The client “success rate” at Eagles Hope is 56 percent, she said, with a recidivism rate of about 3 percent.

    The Riverton Help Center – which provides “much-needed services to families and individuals who are currently experiencing homelessness (or) difficulties in meeting their basic needs” – requested $24,000 from the city this year to help cover an executive director’s salary and applicable payroll taxes “due to the loss of $20,000 in Community Service Block Grant funding (which) which provided the salary for our executive director.”

    “Without this funding, we will not be able to keep our doors open, because there will be no one to accept client applications for service requests and administer the distribution of funds,” the Help Center said in its funding application.

    Funding for Riverton’s community service contracts comes out of the direct distribution the city receives each year from the State of Wyoming, staff said in a memo to the Riverton City Council this month; the allocations are finalized during the budget planning process.

    For more information, call the City of Riverton at 856-2227.


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