Local News


SPONSORED: More than 2,200 homeless Vegas youth

Posted at 10:22 AM, Nov 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-16 13:22:11-05

LeVon recalls the struggle to survive as a homeless teen: he wandered the streets hungry, searching for his next meal. He slept in parks or behind garage dumpsters, hoping he wouldn’t be a victim of crime.
Not many people knew LeVon was homeless. By all appearances, he looked like any other teenager.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone I was homeless,’’ said LeVon, now 21. “I kept it to myself and my good friends … (people) would treat me like I wasn’t good enough when they found out.”
Luckily, LeVon found shelter and support with Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY), which helps many of the 2,232 unaccompanied homeless youth living on the streets or in homeless shelters in southern Nevada.
Homelessness among youth in Las Vegas and Nevada is a growing concern: the state ranks fourth in the nation for prevalence of homeless youth, and first in the nation for the rate of homeless youth living unsheltered on our streets.
This month, Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) through its corporate citizenship program Sands Cares, and NPHY have launched a public awareness campaign to encourage the public to lend a helping hand to youth like LeVon, by helping address the increasing issue of homeless youth in the Las Vegas area.
NPHY helps stabilize the lives of homeless teens by providing a safe, supportive environment and a path to self-sufficiency, including street and preventative outreach, an emergency shelter, and a drop-in center, which includes educational resources provided by LVS.
NPHY needs public donations to fund these programs. Donations provide critical resources, including food, shelter, education and employment assistance.
Volunteers are also needed to help implement services. Opportunities include assisting in NPHY’s drop-in center, providing food, clothing and other items to youth and helping prepare hot lunches.
“Raising awareness about youth homelessness is critically important because many people do not realize these invisible young people are in crisis situations,” said Ron Reese, senior vice president of global communications and corporate affairs at LVS. “We have had the benefit of getting to see the amazing work NPHY can do to help homeless teens turn around their lives, and we got involved with supporting youth by providing educational resources for them at NPHY.”
Homeless youth are different from homeless adults because young people enter into homelessness with little or no work experience or life skills, and are often forced into dropping out of school as a result of their homelessness, according to NPHY.
Homeless youth are often stereotyped as criminals – but they are usually victims. Homeless youth experience high levels of criminal victimization, including sexual exploitation and labor trafficking.
 “These young people are often invisible because they look just like other kids,” said Arash Ghafoori, executive director of NPHY. “They stay in out-of-sight places and do not advertise their homeless status, leaving many people unaware of just how huge this problem is in our community.”
Dessirae, another homeless teen, was referred to NPHY by her counselor. Now a 4.0 community college student, Dessirae is flourishing in the nonprofit’s independent living program.   
“NPHY has given me a pathway to success,’’ the 19-year-old said. “My hopes are very high. I want to see if I can get a scholarship to an Ivy League school, and then double major in political science and criminal justice. My lifetime goal is to become a junior attorney general in the U.S. Air Force.”
As for LeVon, he went on to graduate high school and completed a nursing certificate program. He holds a steady job at a nightclub, lives in his own apartment and aspires to “be his own boss” by becoming an entrepreneur and establishing his own clothing line.
LeVon said he does not regret being homeless.
“I wouldn’t change anything that happened to me because it made me who I am today and as understanding as I am today,’’ he said. “It’s made me a stronger person."
LVS and Sands Cares, in partnership with NPHY, encourage the public to donate or volunteer to help youth like LeVon and Dessirae.
“These are the kinds of results we can have when we all get involved,’’ Ghafoori said. “These teens are Las Vegas’ future – and they can become productive, healthy adults who contribute to society with the public’s help.”
 Visit www.nphy.org for more information.