By: Camile Tanner
Las Vegas is known for its bright lights and over-the-top entertainment, nightlife and dining, but there are darker sides of the city.
Many men, women and children facing economic or personal hardships, Nevada has become home to more than 10,000 homeless individuals (2014 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report).
What a glance at this growing homeless population does not provide, however, is how these conditions affect Nevada’s youth. According to Nevada Homeless Alliance, there are 1,240 children suffering from homelessness and 197 homeless families with children in Southern Nevada as of 2015.
So what can we do? Donate, volunteer, provide food?
Is that really enough to make a difference to alleviate the issues our homeless youth face every day? Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) tells us that while food and clothing are welcome and needed, there is much more to be done when it comes to helping our homeless youth overcome their current circumstance.
More than providing simple necessities, NPHY offers an effective combination of programs and services that goes beyond just providing housing, but a real structure for youth to transition out of homelessness. Youth are made aware of NPHY and the services available through grassroots and staff outreach efforts.
Then the individual’s most immediate needs are met through crisis intervention as they are welcomed into a “safe place” available at the William Fry drop-in center. They are given emergency shelter to get off the streets – but what’s more – NPHY also provides education and employment assistance, an independent living program, family reunification and referrals with partner agencies for continued support.
The one7 communications team toured NPHY’s drop-in center, the first of its kind in the state. This opportunity provided us with a deeper understanding of what homeless youth face on a daily basis and we knew we wanted to get more involved.
One of the many facets offered by NPHY is a chance for local businesses or organizations to visit the drop-in facility for an afternoon called “Feel Good Fridays” and the one7 team got to experience this. We formed teams and cooked an “around the world” dinner including pizza, hot dogs, tacos and sugar cookies which we set up outdoors in activity area. Once it was time to eat, we all gathered outside and got the chance to get to know the kids at NPHY through games of basketball and free-throw challenges, board games and conversation.
At the conclusion of our afternoon, the one7 team sat down to soak in just how amazing these kids were. Bright, funny, polite and motivated to succeed; each and every one of them impressed and amazed us.
More often than not, never would we have suspected any of these young people are experiencing homelessness. We learned that, outside of the food and games, this kind of activity is extremely important when dealing with homeless youth because it provides a chance to introduce positive adults to a youth that has been neglected and often abuse by the adults in their lives. Beneath all the fun lies a much more important lesson; one of trust, social development and healthy relationship-building to combat negative past experiences and help in the creation of new, more positive ones.
To learn more about NPHY and their mission, visit www.nphy.org or visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nevadapartnershipforhomelessyouth, Twitter at @NVHomelessYouth and Instagram at @NevadaHomelessYouth.