Sands Cares and Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) recently wrapped up the annual Southern Nevada Youth Homelessness Summit, taking place in 2020 for the first time as an all-virtual, panel discussion event. Though this year’s format was markedly different than that of Summits past, the aim remained the same: advancing solutions to end youth homelessness in our community.
Kicking off Friday, November 13, with a panel discussion focusing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth experiencing homelessness, Summit 2020 day 1 brought together youth with lived experience and professional experts in a conversation that tackled the magnified effect of the pandemic on vulnerable youth. The following Friday, November 20, Summit 2020 reconvened to address the intersection of systemic racism and youth homelessness. Against the backdrop of the events of 2020, antiracism experts and young leaders discussed the unique challenges faced by the disproportionate number of young people of color facing homelessness in America.
Both panel discussions focused on forwarding the Southern Nevada Plan to End Youth Homelessness, in the shadow of a year filled with unprecedented challenges. Through it all, a path forward into 2021 has been charted with follow-up actions derived from both roundtables. “Despite the challenges of 2020, the Movement is proud to have convened such a significant cross-sector of our community together for Summit 2020,” said Arash Ghafoori, NPHY executive director. “The insights we gained from our panelists and other participants were invaluable, and we are already working to turn those insights into action.”
Efforts have begun with collecting and distilling insights gathered during the COVID-19 roundtable into guidance documents for different community sectors, including direct service providers, medical professionals and other touch points for youth experiencing homelessness, to help them better serve vulnerable youth during the pandemic. To advance and integrate anti-racism support into the fight to end youth homelessness, NPHY is conducting follow-up planning with panelists, experts and youth to develop actionable next steps. Moving forward with the important work of the Southern Nevada Plan to End Youth Homelessness and integration of Summit 2020 outcomes, NPHY also is working with local and national education experts to further initiatives to break down barriers to homeless students' success in higher education.
NPHY also aims to steer the Movement to End Youth Homelessness in continuing to advocate for policy change in 2021. “We’re especially excited to again partner with young leaders this year to pursue policy change that will increase access to both affordable housing and immediate, needed medical care for young people experiencing homelessness – issues that have only become more urgent during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic,” Ghafoori said. Working with SchoolHouse Connection, Nevada Homeless Alliance and other policy partners, NPHY and Movement leaders are diligently at work developing policy priorities for the 2021 Nevada legislative session, focusing on insights gathered at Summit 2020. The Movement has already created a bill draft and found support from Assemblyman Howard Watts to sponsor a bill that would improve medical access for homeless youth.
“We are continuing to implement the Southern Nevada Plan to End Youth Homelessness through our 2021 systems-level efforts around COVID-19, systemic racism, higher education, policy and so much more. We are going to need the entire community’s support around these efforts, so please visit nphy.org/themovement throughout the year to learn more about how you can Be the Movement to end youth homelessness in 2021.”