Editor's note: This originally aired on Sept. 14.
The Las Vegas area suffers one of the largest number of homeless children and youth in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
For the last 20 years, the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth has fought against that. The nonprofit organization provided more than 7,000 nights off the streets for youth at its emergency shelters and more than 65,000 nights off the streets for youth at its multi-site transitional housing facilities.
Arash Ghafoori, the group’s executive director, told State of Nevada that the community’s warm weather and 24-hour lifestyle are beacons for homeless young people.
“Las Vegas provides, unfortunately, a great environment for them to be on the streets,” he said.
Another attraction, he said, is the abundance of entry-level jobs.
“Las Vegas really is one of those last places that you can sort of live that classic American Dream of the two-car garage, getting a well-paying job, TV, in every room, etc.," Ghafoori said. “So a lot of people are coming here seeking out those opportunities. And when those opportunities don't work out, they can end up homeless or in at-risk situations.”
And when young people fall through the cracks in Las Vegas, there is rarely the extended-family support structure found in more-established cities.
"In other communities, where people are there for more than one generation, they can fall back to maybe an uncle or cousin or maybe a grandma," Ghafoori said. "But when people move here and then become homeless or experienced a shock here, they really have no fallback mechanism."
That happened to Quin Harris, who was left alone when his father died while he was a sophomore in high school.
“I was just couch surfing, I wasn't actually street homeless,” said Harris, who turned to the partnership for housing assistance and found peace of mind.
“More than just the physical things that they could give you, I found stability here; I found solace here; and I found really great relationships with the staff,” he said.
Today Harris is 24 and shares his experiences while working as a peer support specialist for the partnership.
"I'm still fairly young,” he said, “so I'll have that direct pathway of being able to engage with them.”
To mark its anniversary, the partnership established its 20th Anniversary Impact Fund to support emergency intervention and assistance, housing solutions, education and employment assistance, health and wellness services, and youth leadership development.
Arash Ghafoori, executive director, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth; Quin Harris, staff member and program graduate, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth
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