Stemming the Tide of Reno's Homeless Youth
The latest on this rising problem, and the one small house that's trying to help the many homeless youth in Reno.
Tonight, across our city, thousands of young people ages 12 to 24 will not go home. Instead, they'll spend the night on friends' couches…or worse, underneath bridges. The people on the front lines, like volunteer Lorraine Moore from UNR’s Orvis School of Nursing, know how bad the problem is. As she told us, "There's probably 3,500 homeless youth in Reno on the streets."
Executive director Michelle Gehr runs the only drop-in safe house and resource center for northern Nevada's homeless youth: Eddy House. As she told us, "These are kids that are actually street kids living on the street, sleeping in trees downtown, sleeping in abandoned buildings. We've seen 625 come through our door just in the first eight months of this year."
Eddy House on East 6th Street is very small, especially the rooms, like most old houses downtown. They don't even own it…it's rented, and can only make a dent into what's become a major problem. Gehr tells me, "There's nowhere else in Reno for them to go."
Many are kids aging out of our foster or welfare system, sometimes without having finished high school. They have trouble finding a job that lets them afford housing. And once a teen is on the street, things can spiral downward quickly. Moore says, "Almost daily these kids are accosted in one way or another. They're not safe among the adults. In fact they don't even go to the food pantries, because they've been tormented so much down there." She knows 15 and 16 year old girls on the street who are pregnant: "And then having a baby on the streets. No house, no food, no insurance."
Michelle tells me predators go to the street and shelters to recruit the kids. She says young people don't go to the city's shelters because homeless adults prey on them. Half of the kids who come here have traded sex or labor for food and shelter. She says, "About 58% of our population say they're been trafficked for sex or labor."
Eddy House is too small to house the kids, but because so many are up all night on the streets, they have six bunks for naps. Fifty kids a day come off the streets here to eat, attend groups, get clothes and a shower. There is HIV testing and help filling out job applications. Fridays are for family meals. Volunteer Bridget Tobin tells me, "What really brings them to the Eddy House is the food, but I really think its each other and the connections that they make with each other."
Bridget and her classmates at UNR's Orvis School of Nursing come here just to help out. They decided to start...a sock drive. She says, "With winter coming and the temperatures lowering, we thought that having a warm dry pair of socks is really the best thing for them." That sock drive begins this Thursday at PJ’s Restaurant on Wells, the Gold 'N Silver Inn on West 4th, and Swill Coffee on Lakeside.
For more on the Eddy House, click below: