On any given night there are, on average, 400 to 600 homeless youth living on the streets of Reno. That’s according to Michele Gehr, the director of the Eddy House, a trauma care drop-in center for homeless youth. She sat down with KUNR reporter Stephanie Serrano to talk about the severity of this problem.
“In 2017 we saw at Eddy House 769 unique youth. This is an issue because in 2015, when Eddy House opened as a drop-in center, there were about 100 kids. This year, 2018, we are slated to see nearly 1,000 homeless youth,” Gehr says.
Gehr works with these youth every day and she says the main difference between the youth and the older homeless population is their sense of hope.
“They view homelessness as a bump in the road, a temporary situation, and they just think if they get a job and a place to stay or a leg up or some help, that they can overcome this and live as a normal person.”
Being a homeless youth comes with many misconceptions. Starting with their appearance. Gehr says they don’t look like what many people may assume a homeless person looks like. You couldn’t tell the difference between a homeless youth and a kid living with a family.
“They just want to be normal because there is an element of shame. There is a stigma attached to homelessness. They don’t associate with other adult homeless, they don’t consider themselves to be homeless.”
In the interview, Gehr discussed the danger the youth face out on the streets, with 100 percent of her clients reporting being sexually or physically assaulted on the streets of downtown Reno at least once a week.