On a weekly basis, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) visits at-risk communities to host a street outreach event called ‘Feel Good Fridays.’ During the event, volunteers give back to young people who are in need of a helping hand. Las Vegas Sands, through our commitment to being a good corporate citizen in the communities in which we operate, is one of NPHY’s biggest supporters in the community through its corporate giving program Sands Cares, and together they are combating youth homelessness.
“We hand out as much as we can according to the season,” Ricardo Ocampo, Outreach Coordinator for NPHY, said. “Right before the school year starts, we try to give out backpacks and have supplies for them to choose from for school. As we approach the winter months, we try to put out blankets and sweaters. We always have shoes, non-perishable foods like oatmeal so that they can take home and of course hygiene kits. Donations come from our volunteers and items from the drop-in center. We take anything that these kids can use.”
Feel Good Fridays has been in operation for over six years in the Las Vegas Valley. In 2011, NPHY started outreach in the parking lot of a 7-11. Once they had a large following, they had to move due to the high traffic and crowds. Now, the event is held at Siegel Suites, centrally located to allow as many youth to get to the event to get what they need.
“I like coming here to get food and water,” Terrance, age 12, said. “It’s helps so much. A lot of people here are really struggling in life. I’m happy that we get to come here and get what we need. We’re all struggling and this is the help we need.”
Since Ocampo started over a year ago, he said they’ve had to restrict how they give out donations. The clients themselves have to be here, a parent cannot come for them. Whole families show up, but the items are put out with the kids needs in mind.
“The hardest thing to see is some of the kids showing up without their parents, where their father’s in prison or their mom has passed away,” Ocampo said. “They have to be the adult, be mature and be mini-parents to their siblings at times. They need these things, but they don’t often ask because they’re too ashamed to ask for help. A lot of the youth that come to see us regularly won’t act or appear grateful at times, but there are some that come up to me to thank me personally. There is kindness, love, and appreciation.”
NPHY began in 2000 as a group of community members fighting legal barriers that were preventing homeless youth from attaining life-saving services. Today, NPHY is the most comprehensive service provider for homeless youth in Nevada, with programs that include mobile crisis intervention, a drop-in center, emergency shelter, family reunification services and housing programs.