Las Vegas Sands is committed to the fight against youth homelessness in our corporate headquarters and throughout the country by fostering relationships with local and national nonprofits, such as Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY), HELP of Southern Nevada’s Shannon West Homeless Youth Center and now the Lost in America Foundation. With the soon-to-be-released documentary film, Lost in America, director Rotimi Rainwater has created a movement to cast a wide lens on the issue of youth homelessness in America through the power of mainstream media.
“Too many of us don’t face this issue,” Rainwater says. “The film forces us to face it.”
On September 4, Sands kicked off its support of Rainwater’s film in New York with a private pre-release screening at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, where the company also announced $100,000 in funding for local organizations and initiatives fighting homelessness in the city. Advocacy around the issue now continues with Sands’ support of A Night to End Youth Homelessness, taking place in cities throughout the United States on November 16.
“I really wanted national media to get exposed to this issue on a wider scale, and I started thinking about Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, which takes place every year around Thanksgiving,” explains Rainwater, who is a former homeless youth. “That effort gets all these groups together to help feed the homeless. Then I thought: If I could help organize these groups around the country to participate in an awareness event at the same time, that could make a great impact.”
From that brainstorming came the idea for A Night to End Youth Homelessness. More than 100 community, nonprofit and private organizations are participating in events that will include a combination of sleep-outs, film screenings, fundraising and other activities.
“We’re doing a live screening at Hollywood Methodist Church in West Hollywood, which will be the centerpiece event and features advocates and speakers, including actress Rosario Dawson,” Rainwater says. “From that home base, we’ll be doing a live stream of the entire event that anyone can follow.”
Everyone who participates, whether at their own events, as part of the live screening or just taking part in their own individual ways, is encouraged to share pictures of themselves holding signs bearing the phrase: “I am Lost in America” on social media. Participating in the social media campaign, Rainwater says, helps spread awareness of youth homelessness.
In 2017, a study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that 4.3 percent of youth ages 13-17 and 10 percent of young adults ages 18-25 experienced homelessness in the year prior to the study’s release.
“More people need to be aware of the extreme prevalence so that we can do something about this,” Rainwater says. “That’s the goal for Lost in America and A Night to End Youth Homelessness.”