Photo by Andrew Sea James

A New Home for Homeless Youth

After eight years of dreaming about ways to eliminate the challenges of its former Downtown facility, Help of Southern Nevada CEO and president Fuilala Riley and her staff celebrated the grand opening of a 37,000-square-foot center for youth on July 14.

Serving homeless individuals between the ages of 16 and 24, the Shannon West Homeless Youth Center provides free residences and day programming that teaches life skills for independent living, such as addiction counseling, behavioral health services, on-the-job training and money management.

“Nevada was ranked No. 1 in the nation for the rate of homeless youth living unsheltered on the streets, according to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report,” Riley says. “During the 2015–2016 school year, there were more than 14,000 homeless students enrolled in Clark County schools. The new center is able to house 166 youth, more than double what our previous center is able to house.”

Photos by Andrew Sea James

The former facility had one multipurpose space for programming, but the new facility has six common rooms to meet a wide range of needs. The center also boasts a computer lab on each of the three floors (a big upgrade from the single computer the former center offered), a commercial kitchen and a dining hall that accommodates all residents at once, which the Downtown location could not.

In addition to the dorm rooms, there are six studio apartments known as step-up rooms in which residents can practice tenancy and living on their own—for example, putting 30 percent of their income toward rent—while still having the support and socialization of the Shannon West community. This was in response to older youth finding themselves back at the center or, worse, on the streets.

Photos by Andrew Sea James

The $10 million project is the first nonprofit facility that all four local governments—Clark County, City of Henderson, City of Las Vegas and City of North Las Vegas—have banded together to help fund. Bank of America–New Market Tax Credits, the Englestad Family Foundation and the Nevada Women’s Philanthropy, among many community members, also rallied behind the new building, which was constructed on a parcel behind Help’s main offices. Additional funding has come from donors who have adopted their own dorm rooms, marked by their names with plaques.

“Our homeless youth have the possibility of growing up and becoming our homeless adult population,” Riley says. “In an effort to steer clear of this, the center aims to help these youth learn how to take care of themselves. … It’s truly a one-stop shop for learning self-sufficiency.”