The Wyoming Rescue Mission, which opened its new $8 million shelter in October, intends to expand again, and the Casper City Council gave its initial approval with a proposed zoning change Tuesday.

The mission, with its main office and shelter at 230 N. Park St., intends to build on the lot on the east side of North Park Street that would include housing units for its discipleship recovery program , according to the agenda for the council meeting.

The parcels at 221 and 227 N. Park St., have multiple zoning classifications, and the Wyoming Rescue Mission wants them rezoned to C-3 [General Business], and the housing for homeless people is included in that category.

While the rezoning was a technical subject, the director of the mission and some of the more than two dozen people who are served by it told the council how much it has affected and bettered the community.

Director Brad Hopkins said those who come to the mission have decided to make some hard choices to change their lives. "Our goal is to get folks restored back into the community.," he said.

Homelessness has roots in deeper systemic challenges in the community, including addiction, domestic violence, and dysfunctional families, Hopkins said. "We are an opportunity program for those who are willing to take that step forward.

The new facility can house up to 200 people, and currently houses about 120 people, Hopkins said.

The proposed new construction, he said, would replace two run-down houses with one house for women, and build a separate house to accommodate up to 40 men, Hopkins said. The "discipleship recovery program" offers an intense year-long plan of practical life skills courses, formal education, Bible studies and other programs.

Some people who live in the area have expressed concerns about some homeless people who have squatted on their properties, but Hopkins, council members and other residents said the people who use the mission are different from those homeless who refuse to change their behavior.

A couple of people said the Wyoming Rescue Mission has helped clean up an area that had been known for drug dealing and law enforcement problems.

Other properties in this area of have been rezoned to C-3 to reflect the changes in land use away from industrial uses, according to a memo in the meeting agenda from Community Development Director Liz Becher to City Manager Carter Napier.

"Here and elsewhere, these land use changes help transform vacant or underused industrial areas for a variety of uses. he Maker's District concept would capitalize on affordable costs of the underutilized land close to the urban core, strengthening downtown's vibrancy in the process," according to Becher's memo.

The city's Planning and Zoning Commission approved the zoning change on April 29. Two neighbors spoke in opposition, citing concerns with the changing demographics of the neighborhood and issues they have had with the existing shelter.

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