By Monica DuPea
Nevada currently ranks first in the nation for unsheltered, unaccompanied youth. One in four homeless Nevadans are between 18 and 24 years old, and only one in ten unaccompanied homeless youth are sheltered. In 2017, National Estimates put our state count of unsheltered, unaccompanied youth (under 24 years old) at 2,166, with 7% (152) in Washoe County.
2019 was Washoe County’s and Nevada Youth Empowerment Project’s 8th year conducting an older youth specific homeless count. Two years ago, it was relocated from the West Street Plaza to the Eddy House. And, we’ve seen a bit of a shift these past two counts, with a majority of the young adults
It’s vague and lacks assurances of future cooperation. These are youth whose potential is not being fully realized, but who do not meet the definition of homelessness.
A majority of these young people are what we would consider “Opportunity Youth” (OY), meaning they are out of work and out of school. There
Unless a day program is mental-health specific, these young adults should be spending their time in the economic mobility continuum.
Ideally, the public and private sectors would fund a strategic continuum including youth-oriented emergency shelter beds, specialized housing for subpopulations of youth for the shelter to refer to, and an array of uncovered supportive services specific to young people that are not provided by housing programs or shelter.
Unless a day program is mental-health specific, these young adults should be spending their time in the economic mobility continuum, including organized training, volunteering, attending job services or training, or at community centers.
Youth programmers would directly and actively work with youth to determine whether something isn’t getting done because of a hill, a skill or a will, then develop an appropriate intervention/approach to overcome the challenge and meet the expectation.
As a community, one of the things we can do immediately
28% reported having a Big Brother or Big Sister growing up, and 45% reported attending a Boys and Girls Club. (A question to consider: How are our tax-funded systems of support perpetuating, or not, the cycle of government dependency by transitioning children and youth from the child welfare system to the adult dependency system when they “age out” at 18?)
Youth homelessness must be prevented to be solved. How can our community as a whole look beyond the dollars and cents and see access for youth to accountable and organized housing, food, education and healthcare as a moral imperative?
Deep initiatives are required consisting of constructive and meaningful collaborations between housing suppliers, education and training providers, government officials, investors, and nonprofits to effectively bring youth back into the mainstream as contributing citizens.
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