Pictured above: Sarah Jahr speaking at What About Us? Photo by Ty O’Neil for ThisisReno
Last week I was given the opportunity to sit on a panel of passionate and knowledgeable members of our community to discuss the problem of youth homelessness. This event, put on by ACTIONN (Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada), brought a full audience to watch the film Invisible Girl, and then follow it with a discussion.
The film, created by Nico Colombant from the site Our Town Reno, follows the story of Corey McDowell, who was periodically homeless during high school and while attending UNR. After nine years of hard work, Corey was able to graduate with a degree in social work. Having recently graduated myself, I think of the challenges that college brought for me. I think of my anxiety from classes, my late nights cramming for tests, and how challenging this changing environment was. Then I try to imagine doing it all again without something I often take for granted: a stable place to live. Corey’s resilience and strength throughout her journey show how determined of an individual she is and her story also shows how homelessness for our youth often goes unnoticed.
With a full audience and panelists from the Eddy House, Washoe County School District Children in Transition, ACTIONN, a UNR student who experienced homelessness throughout their youth, and myself, we were able to discuss youth homelessness through many lenses after viewing the film. Discussions ranged from underlying causes of youth homelessness, to what the City of Reno is doing to help these youth, to how students in school are treated if they are homeless, to where to find resources, and of course the problem of affordable housing in Reno.
You may have already heard some of these issues referenced before, but you may not realize how extreme they are. The simple fact that 1 in 2 mortgages are unaffordable and that rent is continuing to rise for most renters in Reno is astonishing. When the struggle to maintain a living situation becomes increasingly difficult for a family, our youth are the ones that directly struggle, and these are OUR youth. Michele Gehr, the executive director of the Eddy House, explains it best by saying, “These are Northern Nevada’s kids, and that is who we are. We are Northern Nevadans, and we take care of our own.” We need to consider these youth our youth and work toward finding a community response to addressing this problem. Together we can make a difference!
To learn more about this event, check out an article that This is Reno published here: thisisreno.com/2017/02/photos-panel-youth-houselessness/.