Since 1970, HELP of Southern Nevada has been assisting Las Vegas’ homeless individuals and families to overcome barriers and attain self-sufficiency. The organization’s mission is focused on coordinated intake, engagement on the streets, and identifying and prioritizing the street homeless population for housing according to the fragility of their health. Resources are used to help bring people off the streets and eventually into a home of their own.
“We have to remove the barriers that they’ve put up,” said Fuilala Riley, CEO-Elect of HELP of Southern Nevada. “It’s baby steps to try and get them acclimated to not living on the streets. While some stabilize quickly and get better, some may need disability or help getting their veteran benefits. We try to get the services they need to become gainfully employed in the future, which ultimately allows them to live on their own.”
Emergency attention, behavioral health care and a mobile crisis intervention team are just some of the services that HELP provides. For over 10 years, the organization has practiced the “Housing First” model, becoming an expert in the model first adapted in 2005. In accordance with HUD, HELP has scattered sites around Las Vegas where people are placed in a new apartment where 30% of the rent is paid and once they are employed and able, HELP lessens the percentage they pay and the tenant assumes more of the responsibility, eventually living solely on their own.
“The lease is opened in their name so they already have something to themselves and we just help them along,” Riley said. “They can stay in housing as long as they need, especially if they are mentally or physically disabled. There are over 320 units being used at various complexes throughout the city, where they have access to public transportation to get to their appointments and places of employment.”
There are various challenges that case manager’s face when trying to transition a person from the streets to a home of their own. Breaking the habits they’ve now developed from being homeless, case managers can face resistance and push-back. It’s up to HELP’s case managers and various partners in the community to help identify the barriers and solve the underlying issues.
“The biggest obstacle is denial. Many have physical and mental health issues. It’s the perfect storm to have homelessness happen,” she said. “Also, the biggest misconception is people think it can’t happen to them. Who is a homeless person? Our clients are the person sitting next to you at work or on the bus. It can even be the grocery store clerk you see on a regular basis. Most people are so close to homelessness and they don’t think it will happen to them. It’s very difficult to pick yourself up after you’ve fallen down. There’s a purpose to what we do. I am fortunate to see the lives we’re affecting.”