Counting Homeless Youth in Washoe County

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RENO, Nev. - Over the next 24 hours volunteers are hoping to get a better idea of just how many young people are facing homelessness in Washoe County. They've set up a tent in Reno's West Street Plaza near the corner of 1st and West Streets in downtown Reno in hopes area youth without a roof over their heads will visit the site over the course of the day.

“We're doing a homeless youth count to see how many youth are living here unsupported,” Jeanine Moreland of the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project said. “We're trying to get the word out because there's youth out there who may not even think of themselves as homeless because they don't identify with that word but they don't have a regular place to stay. We're counting 18-24-year-olds although if somebody younger comes along we'll survey them too.”

Last year the count reported 55 homeless youth in the area but volunteers say they believe the number to be much higher. They're encouraging young people without a permanent home to visit the West Street Plaza to be counted and take advantage of the resources they have there.

“We have a book full of resources, anything they say they need we can refer them out,” Moreland said. “We have toiletries, warm clothing and we're trying to get backpacks and sleeping bags down here.”

Volunteers say it's important to get an accurate count this year because the number helps determine state and federal funding.

“It's very beneficial for the youth to come down here and be counted because this is really for them,” Moreland said. “The services will be provided for them and this money will come in for them. We're not here to judge anybody or report anybody. You don't have to be afraid to come down here and identify yourself as homeless; we're just here to help.”

They're also accepting donations of food, warm clothing, backpacks and sleeping bags. Food, supplies, games and art supplies will be provided through Thursday night.