(Lander, WY) – 67-year-old Rosezel Allen lives in a vehicle with her adult daughter at Lander’s City Park and is an advocate for the park camping rules to remain unchanged.
“There is love and happiness here,” she said about the park. “And I desperately need that right now.”
Allen is the widow of an Air Force Veteran and is waiting on her widow benefits, which has forced her to live in City Park because she doesn’t make enough to move into an apartment.
She has gone through the hoops of Wyoming 211, and has talked to the Department of Defense about 40 times trying to get her benefits.
“If the Veteran’s not there with you, they don’t help you,” she said about 211. “The Veteran’s there, then they help you.”
She has also looked into our local assistance organizations.
“I’ve checked out all the facilities. I’ve checked out Almost Home. I’ve checked out First Stop. I checked out the Methodist Church. We go there on Friday and get our dinner. We don’t do without food. We’re trying to make it as normal of a stay as we can here.”
Originally from Biloxi, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast. She has lived and worked in several places, but fell in love with Lander in November of 2019. She loved it so much that she decided this was where she wanted to live and returned in June this year.
Before settling in Lander, Allen and her daughter were on what she called the “wellness trip.” A journey where they ran out of money, and her daughter had to quit drinking.
“It’s a weird kind of psychology that has worked,” she noted.
The two packed up their bags in Alabama and left everything else behind.
“We did live normally. With my husband passing away, it just changed everything.”
The wellness trip led to a lot of reflection on life.
“I don’t know what Jesus wants me for my purpose. It might be just to save my daughter, which she’s saving me too, because I would be lost without her.”
Allen shared the challenges of living in a vehicle.
“One of the biggest challenges is that you compromise a lot with not having enough room. Not having enough covers. You worry about not having enough food, even though you do. There’s enough gasoline because I turn it on to keep us warm. And just the security of having a bigger than a car area around you. You know, it’s small areas.”
She also organizes the back of the vehicle every week.
“I organize our ice chest. Our food perishes fast because our ice melts down too fast for us to get it because we can get it with food stamps. And that’s $3 a thing, and it’s gone after two days. So, then I have to throw away some of the food.”
“The challenge is being just two feet away from my daughter. It’s been rough, but actually, we’re learning how to love one another. That’s part of the wellness trip.”
“It’s not like having an apartment at all. I mean, it’s not like having the freedom of being able to lay down straight in a bag.”
“Just having hot water.”
Fortunately, they feel safe at Lander’s City Park and haven’t experienced any harassment or bullying while staying there.
“This is my permanent status,” Allen said about moving to Lander. “I’m not going anywhere.”
She also shared what services are needed for our homeless population.
“I think that there should be more homeless places for people to go in and actually be able to sit. Then, when it snows or the cold weather comes, they can go in and sleep on the couches or whatever and feed them. There should be more day bags going out. This is for Riverton, too. And I think the day bags should be two times a day, seven days a week.”
Allen also noted that more counselors should be available to help the homeless fill out paperwork for things like housing.
“I think there should be like a celebration of the homeless charity benefit, to go into the 501C3s or any of these different facilities that the homeless need.”
“I think there should be more respect for the homeless.”
Allen is a strong advocate for the Lander City Park camping rules to stay the same.
“Keep the camaraderie like you have it here. The love and peace that you really have here. Because you’re going to distort it if you’re wanting to charge the campers or if somebody’s going through a hard time.
“It’s not like the people that have come here that have been homeless aren’t going out and trying to get help. Okay, they’re not going, ‘Oh, I’m gonna drive in here and this is gonna be my own.’ No. It’s a temporary peace of mind.”
The park has brought her so much joy during her time there that she gives back to it in any way that she can by picking up litter and making food for others, among other things. She hopes to have some memorial for her husband there, whether it’s a bench or something else.
“This, by far, with being here and trying to put everything together, is the toughest thing that I have ever done. I mean, as far as putting my life back together.”