Reno’s residents, like so many others, have a desire to help the directionless young adults in their community. While approximately 350 northern Nevada teens are exiting publicly funded institutions or systems of care annually with instability and increased risk of homelessness, there are an additional 99 homeless young adults on the streets of Reno, counted by the Point In Time Count 2016. These are all young people who are without a safe and stable environment for themselves and in most cases, lack the ability to secure affordable housing, or consistent employment.
This overlooked and underserved population of citizens in Reno is defined as “aged-out, or too old” to qualify for certain government services and yet “capable, or too young” to qualify for other modes of assistance that would commonly be thought of as widely available. Citizens and government officials alike are left searching for an avenue to assist this front end of homelessness demographic.
Each year, as our community grows, we see an increase in the number of parentless, unsupported young adults; feeling alone, confused, unwanted and forgotten. All over the country, groups and community leaders are rigorously working to find both long-term and short-term solutions for this serious issue, which not only has a profound effect on our city today, but will only continue to grow as this population of youth reaches adulthood with limited resources, assistance, and attention to their pasts. In order to address the youth needs that are at the top of so many campaigns, talking points and areas to focus on for reform, we need to have the methods and access to the people that need our help ... before we lose the opportunity.
For nearly a decade, this youth service provider, The Nevada Youth Empowerment Project (NYEP), has proven itself to be an organization that fosters strong, developmental relationships, holds their staff, board members and residents accountable for their actions, and provides programming and housing for a demographic of individuals who are normally forgotten about in our current system.
The organization’s founder, Monica DuPea, stands by and lives up to NYEP’s mission: Nevada Youth Empowerment Project provides programming and education to prepare willing older youth for independent, self-sufficient living. She is dedicated to helping the young women in her program grow and evolve so that they no longer need government services, and are empowered to move forward on their own.
NYEP’s goal is to increase housing-based and housing-first services for youth that will deliver safe housing, effective and positive daily interaction, resource supports, skills training, monitoring, and accountability to ensure youth are achieving desired outcomes. NYEP is innovative, receives no government dollars, and is in a constant state of finding new partners whose funding interests and/or desired community outcomes align. These connections not only give NYEP the financial means to do its important work, but also provides the necessary opportunities to develop and implement the most effective and efficient solutions for wayward, unhoused, unsupported youth; solutions that support and empower young people to motivate and change their lives for the better ... forever.
Community Living Program
The main avenue by which the organization creates long-term change for its participants is the housing-based Community Living Program (CLP). The CLP was developed — and continues to evolve — to replicate real life and instill lifelong skills so that, upon graduation, the young women have a toolbox of resources, skills and the ability to be self-sufficient. The CLP houses young women, aged 18-21, and teaches them problem solving, time management, grocery shopping, budgeting, positive peer relations, self-care, home maintenance, employment skills, and more. NYEP’s CLP provides these older youth with the direction and structure they’ve been missing their entire lives. The program lasts 9-18 months and establishes clear expectations and outcomes that hold each participant accountable. They are able to show results that are measurable as the girls grow and become women who are positive contributors to the community.
Opportunity youth’s earnings are estimated to be $375,000 over a lifetime. But, when a young person fails to realize their potential, they impose, on average and compared to other young people, an immediate taxpayer burden of $13,900 per year, in addition to the social burden of $37,450. Once these young people reach 25, they will subsequently impose a future lifetime taxpayer burden of $170,740, in addition to the social burden of $529,030. NYEP’s CLP averages a cost of $20,000 per resident per year — the same cost as jail! So, an investment into NYEP is well worth the return.
The organization is a social change agent empowered to move forward through the support of a dedicated board of directors and volunteers, including President Marilyn York, a local family law attorney who takes an active, hands-on approach to making the organization successful, all while creating lifelong connections. Marilyn is presently facilitating a pass-through donation system; whereby $50 from each new client consultation fee is donated to NYEP. This program generated $1,500 for NYEP in its first two months.
Other board members for the 2016 term include community and business leaders Randi Reed, Britton Griffith Douglass, Brock Marquez, Candy Greene and Haley Mosely. Recently, Stacie Mathewson Foundation sponsored several rehabilitation projects at our new housing property purchased for us by Nell J. Redfield Foundation, Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation, Mathewson Charitable Trust, NV Energy Foundation and Thelma B. and Thomas P. Hart Foundation.
Past board members who remain passionate about the cause include Deputy District Attorney Dianne Drinkwater, City Engineer Charla Honey, and our mayor, Hillary Schieve.
NYEP has many opportunities to help. Please visit the website at www.nyep.org for more information about the organization, its facilitators, residents, and board members, as well as how you can join us in guiding young people from poverty to opportunity.