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News | August 22, 2023

Third Movement Institute Addresses Mental Health Issues Among Unhoused Youth

In July, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) held the third Movement Institute advocacy training co-presented with Sands and in collaboration with the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. Its focus was to examine how the Southern Nevada community can address the increasing mental health needs of young people experiencing homelessness.

The event convened cross-sector experts on youth homelessness and mental illness and included a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Nicholas Barr, assistant professor at UNLV’s School of Social Work, followed by a Movement Action Center session in which attendees identified solutions and better ways for advocates and service providers to work together.

Underscoring the Movement Institute’s July focus, mental health problems are as much as 11 times higher for homeless youth than for the general population, according to the National Network for Youth. In addition, homeless teenagers are 7.2 times more likely to attempt suicide than housed teenagers, according to a 2018 study from SchoolHouse Connection, the nation’s leading expert on the early care and education of children and youth experiencing homelessness.

“While mental illness can affect anyone regardless of their housing or economic status, the issues homeless youth face on a daily basis can absolutely stress their mental health or exacerbate existing symptoms,” said Arash Ghafoori, CEO of NPHY. “On top of the daily risks they face, the youth we serve often do not have a family network to support them if they experience mental illness, or access to healthcare and insurance to help them seek treatment if they are affected. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve definitely seen mental health issues increase, which has in turn created heightened barriers for systems to meet youths’ changing needs.”

Collaboration was a key theme of the July Movement Institute, as attendees grappled with how to better integrate the work and expertise of various organizations since no single group has all of the knowledge, resources or accountability necessary to holistically address the mental health challenges homeless youth encounter.

“Tackling this issue is difficult in Southern Nevada because the services youth need are spread across several entities without a centralized mental health department to coordinate efforts like in other counties,” Ghafoori said. “Integrating our efforts will be key to making progress on this complex issue.”

As a follow-up to this session, NPHY and the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs will co-author an issue brief about the impact of mental health issues on homeless youth to facilitate better, more sustainable and systemic policy changes. The goal is to provide a deeper understanding of mental health challenges, identify gaps in services and unify stakeholders.

“Making progress on this complex issue will require a myriad of responses and connections, but I am inspired by the enthusiasm and ideas that were cultivated at the Movement Institute,” Ghafoori said.

Held quarterly, the Movement Institute is the newest mobilization instrument of the Movement to End Youth Homelessness and provides year-round opportunities for stakeholders and community members to gain education and training, and take action around solutions.

At the 2023 Nevada Youth Homelessness Summit on Nov. 8, the Movement to End Youth Homelessness is bringing together stakeholders from throughout the state to explore the necessary building blocks to create the first-ever standalone Nevada Plan to End Youth Homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, roughly 12% of youth experiencing homelessness across the United States in 2022 resided in Nevada, with 81% of those youth concentrated in Southern Nevada.

Addressing youth homelessness is a primary focus of the Sands Cares community engagement program in Las Vegas. Sands’ work with NPHY spans nearly a decade and more than $2.3 million in funding to provide immediate relief, lasting solutions, and advocacy and awareness for youth experiencing homelessness since 2014.

In addition to support for the Movement to End Youth Homelessness and Summit 2023, Sands’ 2023 engagement with NPHY also includes funding to address the social and emotional well-being of youth experiencing homelessness through classes and activities at the NPHY Drop-In Center as well as in-house and contracted mental health services.

To learn more about Sands’ youth homelessness efforts as part of the company’s priority on  hardship relief in communities around the world, read the 2022 ESG Report:

In July, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) held the third Movement Institute advocacy training co-presented with Sands and in collaboration with the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs.