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Thread: The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth

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    The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth

    The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth is credited for the passage of the Right to Shelter law during the 2001 legislature. This law allows unaccompanied minors to consent to the same services that adult homeless persons receive. Nevada is one of twelve states that allow homeless youth to access food and shelter without parental consent if the minor has been abused or neglected.

    Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth opened the "Sanctuary" drop-in center on October 1, 2001, the same day that the "Right to Shelter" law went into effect. The drop-in center in the state and has since been donated to another non-profit agency.

    In January of 2002, the nationally acclaimed "Safe Place" program was launched in partnership with Terrible Herbst Oil Company. With over 100 convenience stores in Clark County, Terrible Herbst was the perfect community partners in ensuring that runaway, repudiated and abused teens had immediate access to help. The program has successfully served over 200 Las Vegas youth.

    On May 1, 2005, NPHY opened the communities second drop-in center. The "Safe Place" drop-in center, located across the street from UNLV at 4800 S. Maryland Parkway. The center serves as a respite center for chronic street youth and provides access to basic needs items such as food, safety and counseling.

    NPHY is in the process of fundraising to expand our drop-in center and programs to serve the homeless youth in our community. If you are interested in helping with a capital campaign, please contact Arash Ghafoori at (702) 778-8366.

    Addressing the needs of Nevada's Homeless Youth

    NPHY views homelessness among adolescents as a serious public health concern, due to the lack of services available to them. Homeless and runaway youth typically leave home due to tragic and unlivable circumstances, such as physical and sexual abuse. These youth are aware of the foster-care system and how it functions, but they opt to live on the streets because they see it as a better alternative.

    This population is difficult to find because they have become "invisible" to society. They intentionally blend in and disappear in order to survive. Until the "Right to Shelter" law was passed, that's exactly what they were: stuck in the middle between young children and adults, thus making them invisible in the eyes of the system.

    Homeless youth have different needs than homeless adults; therefore, combining the services offered to adults with those offered to youth would be an unsafe and impractical solution. In Nevada, there are presently no long-term residential facilities for youth seeking help on a voluntary basis. To further complicate this matter, the detailed statistics needed in order to develop long-term residential care for this population are virtually non-existent.

    NPHY has identified the following priorities in bringing first-time services to this segment of society in Nevada:

    Street Outreach-specifically designed to provide needed medical care

    Emergency shelter services for female adolescents who fall victim to prostitution

    Long-term residential programs for homeless teens who are pregnant or parents

    With the assistance of local social agencies, as well as state and county collaboration with the private sector, NPHY intends to heighten awareness among all healthcare providers who are accustomed to interacting with the underage homeless in Nevada. The population exists and is in desperate need of services in order to prevent them from graduating to lifelong homelessness. With adequate funding, NPHY can offer these homeless youth an opportunity to transform their lives.

    Most of the youth residing on the streets are sexually active and at high risk of becoming parents; many of the girls are already pregnant. Lack of prenatal care, improper nutrition and severe dehydration make these young women prime candidates for delivering premature babies and those with a birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds. This part of the population are also at a high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases that usually go undiagnosed and untreated. Some of these youth have admitted to engaging in "survival sex." And because of the extreme circumstances in which these youth live, many are suicidal. Sadly enough, the ages of these youth vary between 11-18 years, with no gender bias reflected in drug use, survival sex, high school dropout rates or attempted suicide.

    For the past five years, NPHY has been advocating for Nevada's homeless youth. The organization is dedicated to offering first-time services to an adolescent population that has been either overlooked and/or underserved by the current system. Usually, homeless and transient teenagers do not have the same substance abuse addictions and mental health disorders that afflict homeless adults. Homeless babies, toddlers, young children and adolescents should not have to live in cars and alleys or eat out of dumpsters. The youngest of these children are the true victims of homelessness. They have no voice and are subjected to living conditions that most people cannot comprehend or would even want for their household pets.

    It is time for the community to take a stand and to make a difference. Help NPHY help the children. After all, they are society's future.

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