Since 2015, Las Vegas Sands has invested more than $4 million in homelessness-related issues and has become a champion for tackling youth homelessness, in particular, as co-founder of the Southern Nevada Youth Homelessness Summit with long-time partner Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY).
This fall, Sands is amplifying its advocacy for youth homelessness to help drive a national conversation around the issue with financial backing for Lost In America, a feature documentary film scheduled for release by Indican Pictures in November 2019.
Directed by Rotimi Rainwater, Lost In America aims to shine a light on the harsh realities experienced by more than one million youth who are homeless in America. The film follows Rainwater, who experienced homelessness as a youth, and his team on a six-year journey as they travel the country capturing the hard realities of these youth’s lives. The documentary takes a raw and unflinching look into youth homelessness and aims to not just identify causes, but to take a stand on how Americans can make an impact.
“Lost in America is more than a film – it’s a movement,” Rainwater says. “This film was borne out of my journey, but it focuses on the journeys these youth are on, journeys that simply shouldn’t happen. I wanted to give a voice to these youth by making this film and in order to shine a light on this issue nationally. We need to get youth homelessness on the radar of every politician, corporation, opinion leader, advocate or anyone who has the ability to make a difference in these kids’ lives.”
Sands’ backing of Lost in America is helping Rainwater create that national spotlight on the issue through awareness programs that drive visibility and engagement for the film. The company kicked off its support on September 4 by hosting a pre-release screening of the film in New York, which is ranked as one of the U.S. cities with the highest rate of youth homelessness. The screening featured a panel discussion with national experts including Darla Bardine, executive director of National Network for Youth; Laurie Jackson, president and CEO of National Safe Place; and Matthew Morton, Research Fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Former New York Governor David Paterson, who now serves as senior vice president and special advisor to Sands, kicked off the event, and Arash Ghafoori, executive director of NPHY, moderated the panel discussion.
“Lost in America helps us step into the shoes of the youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness every day in our country,” Bardine says. “At National Network for Youth, our advocacy agenda is focused on urging Congress to act swiftly in support of the sole federal program focused exclusively on serving these young people by significantly increasing funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and passing the bipartisan and bicameral Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act. The premier of Lost in America this fall will help us tell America the stories of youth experiencing homelessness and encourage our political leaders to take action.”
Sands originally became involved in the youth homelessness issue because Southern Nevada/Las Vegas has one of the nation’s highest incidence rates for youth homelessness. To help turn around these alarming statistics, the company has established an overall strategy of providing immediate relief, helping spur long-term solutions and creating advocacy and awareness opportunities to support young people experiencing homelessness. In addition to co-hosting and annually underwriting all costs for the Southern Nevada Youth Homelessness Summit, Sands also is a founding member of The Movement to End Youth Homelessness in Southern Nevada and has been the lead business community representative on the region’s efforts to launch the Southern Nevada Plan to End Youth Homelessness, which was unveiled this past year at Summit 18.
The company’s youth homelessness efforts also have included a variety of engagements to help long-time partner NPHY affect the lives of youth experiencing homelessness with support for the organization’s Drop-In Center, Safe Place/Mobile Crisis Intervention Center and Independent Living Program – as well as inclusion of NPHY in the Sands Cares Accelerator, a program that helps growth-stage nonprofits with funding, mentoring and in-kind support to help member organizations accelerate their impact in the community.
At the New York screening, Sands also announced $100,000 in funding for New York organizations and initiatives focused on homelessness.