Imagine what it’s like not to have a comfortable bed to sleep on at night. Imagine there’s no roof over your head, no heat you can turn up, no lights you can turn on. Think how vulnerable you’d feel. Imagine how every sound would startle you and seem like an impending threat. Now imagine dealing with those things as a teenager. For thousands in Southern Nevada, that’s not an imagined experience; that was last night.
On any given night, there’s an estimated 13,000 homeless youth in Southern Nevada, some alone, some with family members, living beneath underpasses, in parks, alleys, in cars. They’re the reason the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) exists. NPHY is the most comprehensive service provider in the region. Their 24/7 support quite literally changes lives. Multiple programs offer more than a place to sleep, but a proven path to self-sufficiency. SCE Credit Union is quite proud to play a small part in this organization’s efforts. We applaud their accomplishments and this year, we join in the celebration of their 20th anniversary. For so many, NPHY is simply the embodiment of hope.
An amalgam of answers
Homelessness among teens has many different causes. For a variety of reasons teens choose to leave. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse may leave them little choice. Teenagers who “come out” sometimes get kicked out. Underlying psychological issues, violence, drugs, alcohol can all contribute to a teen being on the street and in jeopardy. NPHY has developed a series of programs to tackle immediate and long-term issues.
Off the street
NPHY has an outreach program that, with the help of schools, identifies students who – for whatever reason – are on the cusp of becoming homeless. The outreach makes it known if they find themselves in a bad situation NPHY is a place they can turn to.
Safe Place is a national program. In Southern Nevada, NPHY partners with Las Vegas City Fire Stations, Las Vegas-Clark County and Henderson Libraries, Terrible Herbst/Gas Station-Convenience Stores, and the Regional Transportation Center (RTC). Any youth, under 18, can go to any of these locations, say they need help, and NPHY will send someone there 24/7. It doesn’t have to be a homeless problem; it could be just a way to get home safely. If a teen’s friend has been drinking and they don’t want to drive with them, they can call.
Emergency shelters often come into play. NPHY operates two, one for youth under 18, the other for 18+. Homeless teens can stay the night in a safe place and in the morning, a case worker will help figure out what’s next.
The Drop-in Center
The NPHY Drop-In Center isn’t a place to stay, but a place to normalize. The facility is located across from UNLV. There, homeless youth can tend to immediate needs like food and a shower. They can wash clothes and even use a computer. It may surprise some to learn an estimated 1.5 million homeless students in this country still attend school. This past year, as most know, COVID forced most classrooms onto computer screens.
The center offers help obtaining IDs, birth certificates and financial literacy classes. That’s an area where SCE Credit Union has stepped in.
“Young people experiencing homelessness have been let down by many of the same systems put in place to support them during these fundamental years of development,” said Arash Ghafoori, NPHY’s Executive Director. “Not only do they need basic necessities, but they need support, hope and commitment from the community that we have their backs. SCE Credit Union has stepped in to support NPHY by helping us provide critical financial life skills training that’ll allow these youth to succeed in their journeys and become self-sufficient. We value and appreciate their partnership.”
Operation Go Home
If a teenager has been kicked out by their parents, or there are issues with a guardian, NPHY will step in and determine if they can go home. Not necessarily to the home they’ve left, but to a familiar alternative option. Sometimes there’s a safe place, the home of a relative they can go to. NPHY will help with arrangements and pay for their bus ride anywhere in North America. The organization follows up to make sure things are working out.
Independent Living Program
The Independent Living Program is the safety net. When all other options have been exhausted this is the program homeless youth can turn to. Independent Living is operated on a multi-site model, with condos located all around the city.
NPHY works with youth in the program to ensure they’re in school or working.
Homeless youth share the individual condos, living roommate style, and therefore learning to live with others. All their basic expenses are paid for. Their food, hygiene products and transportation are taken care of. They receive weekly therapy. They attend Life Skills classes where they learn how to budget, shop and save for themselves. Those who work are required to save half of what they earn. That money is put in a basic savings account, which they get back with interest when they are graduating from the program.
Case managers work with youth to develop individual plans and goals for each teen in the program. The main purpose is nothing less than the confidence that comes with self-respect and self-sufficiency. This program has an amazing success rate with over 80% of teens graduating securing stable housing.
NPHY is about being a lifeline and safety net. It helps homeless youth escape the desolation, desperation and dangers of homelessness. It provides the basics. At the same time, NPHY is a classroom. It teaches the skills necessary to attain independence. In the beginning of this blog we asked you to imagine what it’s like to be homeless. Now imagine what it would be like to escape homelessness. NPHY helps that happen every day.
Learn more or donate at nphy.org