Homeless youth count ends; youth homelessness on the rise

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) UPDATE: The 24-hour count led to 104 people being surveyed.

14 were not in shelters, 6 were in shelters, and 84 are reported as being in "nebulous" circumstances, i.e., sleeping on friends' couches.

ORIGINAL STORY: The annual Homeless Youth Count hosted by the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project is underway. The count is an effort to get an accurate count of homeless youth under the age of 24, and this year it is being held at the Eddy House on 423 E. 6th Street. Meredith Tanzer of the Eddy House says the homeless youth between 18 and 24 years old are often those who fall through the cracks of the system.

"There's a lack of services for people 18-24 and they are different than adults," she said. "The shelters are full and less than 7% of our kids want to stay at the adult shelter. They don't feel safe there. So why are we putting them there?"

In 2017, the Youth Point In Time Count reported 73 homeless youth in the area. In 2016, that number was 99.

The numbers may fluctuate from count to count, but Tanzer says The Eddy House is seeing an increase in young adults throughout the entire year.

"Our numbers are rising like crazy," she said. "If we do not get a handle on it we are going to be a city out of control, similar to Portland where there are people everywhere."

Tanzer said more awareness of what programs are offered to homeless youth is a contributing factor, but so is a breakdown of the family unit.

"We're seeing an increase in parents that maybe had their kids young, and now the parents are getting connected with a new spouse," Tanzer said. "Whatever apartment they're living in only allows for a certain number of people, and they're letting go of their teenagers. We've had kids dropped off at Our Center for being LGBT where the parents pull up and say, 'Here you go', and they let the kid out of the door."

Often times, Tanzer said, the kids won't admit to being homeless.

"They can say, 'I slept in my house last night', but we know that that house could be an alley, it could be a tree, it could be something, not a fixed address. If you do not have the ability to go home tonight and 100% be able to put your key in that door and know you can lay your head down on a bed, you fall under HUD's definition [of homeless]."

Homeless counts are mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to be held every year in January. The Homeless Youth Count allows organizations like the Eddy House and Nevada Youth Empowerment Project to put a number to the problem, but more importantly, a face to it so they can better identify a solution.

"Until they have some sort of stability in their life, how can they continue to move forward?" Tanzer asked.

At the count, the young adults will be given necessary toiletries, along with warm clothing and other necessary items. The count runs through midnight Thursday night, and donations are still needed. Tanzer says they don't need clothing, other than new boxer briefs. But what they do need are gift cards in the $5-10 range to fast food restaurants, Walmart, Walgreens, and laundromats. They can be dropped off anytime during the count at 423 E. 6th Street.