SPONSORED: Homeless youth map out their future as part of Independent Living Program

Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth provides transitional housing and comprehensive services to promote self-sufficiency among unaccompanied homeless youth in Las Vegas.
Rebekah fell in love with architecture in 6th grade, when her teacher assigned her a project to design a mock home.
Now the 19-year-old is in college, working her way toward making her dream career a reality.
Not long ago, her future didn’t seem as bright. For several years, Rebekah lived in foster care and then was placed with distant relatives who were emotionally abusive. She was determined to leave, but had no home. Fortunately, she found Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY), which offers homeless youth a second chance through its Independent Living Program (ILP).  This 20-bed transitional housing program provides homeless teens with housing and other comprehensive services to get and keep them off the streets.
“The best part of being in the program is being able to work toward a better future,’’ Rebekah said.
This month, Las Vegas Sands (LVS) through its corporate citizenship program Sands Cares, and NPHY launched a public awareness campaign to encourage the public to assist young people like Rebekah, by donating or volunteering to help address the increasing issue of homeless youth in the Las Vegas area.
Nevada ranks fourth in the nation for prevalence of homeless youth and leads the nation in the number of homeless youth living on the streets, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.
There are approximately 2,232 unaccompanied homeless children and youth in the area, according to the 2015 Southern Nevada point-in-time count.
“These kids deserve a chance for a better future,” said Ron Reese, senior vice president of global communications and corporate affairs at LVS.  “Working with NPHY, we want to raise awareness about the survival challenges homeless teens struggle with every day they are alone on the streets.’’
Approximately 18 youth are currently enrolled in the Independent Living Program, ranging in age from 17 to 20.  Youth live independently in confidentially located condos scattered throughout Clark County. They also have 24-hour support from their case managers and “house parents.”  
In addition to housing and immediate needs services, such as food, clothing, and transportation, each program participant is provided with intensive case management, education and employment counseling and assistance, connections to mainstream benefits, life skills classes, therapy and a variety of enrichment opportunities to help them become self-sufficient, successful adults.
Through these services, NPHY’s objective is to not only move youth out of immediate homelessness, but also to help each youth build toward long-term independence and success.
Every youth is required to enroll in school and/or work full-time and to talk daily with NPHY staff to ensure they have the resources, tools and motivation needed to achieve their goals. Employed youth are also required to save half of each paycheck, which is redistributed to them with earned interest upon graduation from the program to aid them in transitioning to a sustainable, adult lifestyle. Graduates are also provided with one year of aftercare services to ensure long-term success.
“This program provides critical transitional housing and supportive services tailored to the unique needs of homeless youth,” said Arash Ghafoori, executive director of NPHY. “The approach has proven its effectiveness, with the overwhelming majority of clients exiting from NPHY's ILP program to stable housing year over year.”
Zafra, 21, is another youth whose life has been changed by ILP. She is a successful graduate of ILP, now living in her own place while working and continuing her culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu.
“I want to learn as much as I can,” said Zafra, when asked about her hopes for her future. “I’m a baker now, but studying to be a pastry chef. I want to earn that title.”
As for Rebekah, she asked that the Las Vegas community open their eyes to the plight of homeless youth.
“There are so many homeless youth on the streets, and the public doesn’t even know they are there,’’ she said. “People need to pay more attention to what’s going on around us.”
LVS and Sands Cares, in partnership with NPHY, encourage the public to donate or volunteer to help more youth like Rebekah and Zafra. Visit www.nphy.org for more information.

Read full story