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Las Vegas is known for its 24-hour operations and thriving nightlife; and while millions of tourists visit the neon-lit city for entertainment, there is a dark side to all the glitz and glamour. The city that never sleeps is also home to thousands of homeless youth, who fall pray every day to sex trafficking.
To better protect these vulnerable youth, the nonprofit Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) has teamed up with local organizations to form Power ON!, a new collaborative mentoring project to provide empowerment and safety to local homeless and high risk youth. Volunteers are needed to serve as mentors and advocates, and information sessions and open houses for them and others interested in the program will be Jan. 29-31.
Las Vegas/Clark County has the third largest number of homeless youth (2,052) residing in the community on an average night of any metro area in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Putting these youth in even more dangerous situations, in 2017, Nevada ranked No. 1 for the highest rate of unaccompanied homeless youth living unsheltered on the streets. Homeless youth are often hungry, afraid, and unsure of how to access help, which makes them especially vulnerable to traffickers. In fact, homelessness is the largest risk factor for the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and the sex trafficking of minors, according to the Institute of Medicine and Research Council; and National Safe Place studies indicate that 1 out of every 3 homeless youth on the streets is lured into the sex industry within 48 hours of leaving home.
Power ON! is the first program of its kind in Southern Nevada. The community collaboration between NPHY, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Nevada, The Embracing Project and The Center focuses on providing best practice mentoring relationships for girls and boys, including lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, who are at risk or victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST). Through the network and expertise of participating agencies, youth will be connected to needed direct services such as housing, case management, therapy and a year of one-on-one mentorship with a trained, supportive community member. The mentorship is designed to empower youth to build a life of confidence, safety and self-respect. Through mentorship and direct services, vulnerable youth and youth survivors of sexual exploitation will receive holistic advocacy and services from all partnered agencies and mentors.
“We’re honored to be working with great community organizations in an effort to protect and help our growing homeless youth population avoid sexual exploitation and trafficking situations,” said, Arash Ghafoori, executive director of Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and National Mentoring Awareness Month. NPHY is inviting all advocates, individuals interested in mentoring, stakeholders, service providers and community leaders to attend one of several Power ON! information sessions and open houses to learn more about the program and how to get involved.
“It takes action to produce results. The action required ‒ to make a difference in the lives of youth affected by sexual exploitation/trafficking ‒ takes numbers. We are not meant to walk alone. Stand together for the bigger picture of a unified community,” said Sophia Parker, Power ON! community advocate and a survivor.
The Power ON! information sessions and open houses will take place from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., January 29, 30 and 31 at the NPHY Drop-In Center, 4981 Shirley Street near UNLV off of Tropicana.
Please RSVP at PowerOn@nphy.org. For more information, call (702) 383-1332 or visit http://www.poweronlv.com/.
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