The events of 2020 have affected us all. For youth experiencing homelessness, the global pandemic has made already-difficult circumstances even more challenging. The fourth annual Southern Nevada Youth Homelessness Summit, from Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) and Sands, is addressing these issues head-on. Arash Ghafoori, NPHY executive director, shared thoughts on the intersection of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis of youth homelessness.
For young people experiencing homelessness, the events of 2020 have been particularly difficult to navigate. COVID-19 has exacerbated already-arduous circumstances and created new hardships around housing, employment, education and healthcare, and strained youths’ social networks and social and emotional well-being. Right now, young people need safety, food, shelter and care more than ever. At the same time, service providers dedicated to vulnerable youth are also experiencing an unparalleled surge in demand.
Youth experiencing homelessness are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19, due to the mobile and transient nature of their living situations, lack of ability to self-isolate, comparatively high incidence rates of underlying health conditions and disconnection from healthcare and other stabilizing, and often lifesaving, systems. They also lack parental or other supportive adults who can help them navigate emergencies or emergency response systems.
Additionally, many homeless young people who are working their way to self-sufficiency now have new obstacles to face: losing their jobs due to COVID-19 business closures, and losing the support and resources they received on-site at school.
Access to essential resources and services addressing housing, shelter, food, clothing, hygiene items, showers, laundry services, transportation assistance, case management and therapy, along with connections to mainstream benefits and much-needed medical services, were indispensable before COVID-19. Today, they are needed more than ever to protect the health and safety of vulnerable youth – and that of our entire community.
Unprecedented local unemployment rates and inevitable forthcoming evictions indicate that COVID-19 will result in more young people experiencing homelessness, amplifying this already-existing crisis in our community. Accordingly, it is imperative that we come together to proactively build creative solutions to both continuing and evolving challenges around COVID-19 and its effects on youth homelessness in Southern Nevada.
COVID-19 has become a public health and economic crisis that will likely come to define a generation; we must join together to act before homelessness also comes to define a generation. Join us at Summit 2020 to learn more about how you can make an impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable youth in our community.
Learn more about Summit 2020 and NPHY by visiting nphy.org