Las Vegas Sun

July 30, 2014

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Center opens for homeless youths

The Las Vegas Valley's first drop-in center for homeless youth under 18 opened Monday, as a six-month census and study of that population was also announced, another first.

The center and the study will be under the direction of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, a nonprofit organization.

Both announcements were hailed by those who work with the homeless, as helping homeless youth is seen as a way of reducing the number of homeless adults.

"Many of the people I see in homeless camps ... became homeless when they were teenagers," said Linda Lera-Randle El, director of a nonprofit group called Straight from the Streets. She attended the center's opening.

The partnership's Web site notes that 3,513 children in Nevada needed emergency shelter in 2003, 1,800 of whom were placed in foster care.

The center, at 4800 Maryland Parkway, across from UNLV, will be open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is offering services ranging from rental assistance to on-site classes geared to obtaining a high school diploma.

The study will offer the sort of look at minors on the streets that does not exist for the adult population -- or "how many there are, where they are and what their needs are," according to Kathleen Boutin, executive director for the partnership.

The study will cost $107,000 and extend from June 1 to December 31. More than half of that money will come from private sources, including the Ritter Trust, KB Home and Terrible Herbst Inc., Boutin said.

Clark County Manager Thom Reilly was expected to request $40,000 from the Clark County Commission today for the study.

At the center's opening Monday was the partnership's newest hire, Krystal Campagna.

At 18 she was on the streets or with friends until the partnership's outreach director, Bob Bellis, helped get her into an apartment two months ago.

Her profile is typical of many of the homeless youth on the valley's streets, Boutin said -- in and out of court rooms, shelters and group homes since she was a child, escaping a father she said was abusive and a mother who drank and smoked methamphetamine.

Steeped in turmoil, she has still continued with schooling and is now six months from graduating from Valley High School.

In her new apartment near Karen Avenue and Maryland Parkway, she said she is "not used to being by myself ... it's kind of scary."

The weight of it -- school, work, apartment, loneliness -- drew a tear in the hallway of the new center Monday afternoon as donors, news cameramen and nonprofit workers milled about nearby.

Still, she said, she wants to study social work in college so she can help others who are "bouncing around" like she has most of her short life.

Working at the center is a first step.

There she can become a mentor to her peers and "explain to them situations I've been in and if they need somebody to trust they can talk to me."

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