Former homeless Las Vegas teen spotlights ongoing issue

Giuseppe Pizano was a freshman at Chaparral High School when he became homeless.

He had a heated argument with his mother when she told him he wouldn’t amount to anything, Pizano said. Later, as he approached his house after school, he found the front door locked. He peered through the windows and saw everything was gone.

For the next year, high school bleachers became his home. He stole food from 7-Eleven, brushed his teeth in a fountain and joined after-school programs to stay off the street.

Today, Pizano works for a technology company in Denver and speaks at schools; he recently gave his first TED Talk to encourage people to look at homelessness differently.

“I consider myself lucky because I had a backpack,” he said at a TED Talk in June in Traverse City, Michigan. “And because along the way I found some of the most beautiful, compassionate and courageous people that not only helped me through this time but who have left a lasting impression stamped on my heart.”

Pizano initially didn’t want to ask for help because he feared the foster care system and police, he said.

“I figured, staying homeless, I had more control over what happened in my life,” Pizano said.

With the help of one of his teachers, he landed at the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.

Homeless stigma

Arash Ghafoori, executive director for NPHY, said youth often hide their homelessness because it carries a stigma.

“Homeless youth are an invisible population,” Ghafoori said. “They aren’t trying to advertise the fact that they are homeless. They aren’t trying to get bullied.”

Nevada ranked first in the nation for the rate of unaccompanied homeless children and youth living unsheltered on its streets, at 82 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

There is an average of 2,052 unaccompanied homeless children in Nevada, according to the 2017 Southern Nevada Homeless Census and Survey. Ghafoori said the number is underestimated.

Even if every local homeless service provider tried to house every homeless child, he said, the local system could host less than 20 percent of that population.

“We have a lot of youth in the school district, we have a lot of youth on the streets, and a lot of youth in care, but we don’t have nearly enough beds to accommodate the population,” Ghafoori said.

The environment of Las Vegas also contributes to the issue of homelessness, Ghafoori said. He named warm weather, the 24/7 nature of the city and a lack of good public transportation as contributing factors. According to Help Home Hope, a Southern Nevada’s regional plan to end homelessness, one in every three teens on the streets will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

A Safe Place

NPHY has locations in Henderson, northwest Las Vegas and the UNLV corridor. The number of first-time visits has increased by 7 percent this year, and the number of repeat visits has increased by 22 percent, Ghaffori said.

Out of nearly 500 youths to visit an NPHY center, 234 had ZIP codes that could be reported. Six of them were from Henderson.

NPHY offers programs such as emergency shelter, independent living, outreach, and a drop-in center. The drop-in center provides a home-like environment for youth where they can do homework, eat, exercise and interact with others.

NPHY operates the Safe Place program in Southern Nevada. The yellow signs associated with the program can be seen on buses and at fire departments and Terrible Herbst gas stations. Youths can come to Safe Place 24/7 if they suddenly end up homeless because of domestic abuse or other issues.

“Youth can become homeless suddenly and unpredictably, in a matter of a second,” Ghafoori said.

Program coordinators also go to schools, parks and recreation centers to try to find homeless youth. Many of them are what Ghafoori calls “service-resistant,” meaning they’ve been abused by adults or institutions, he said.

Typically, when participants first come to the programs, they are frightened because of past trauma, Ghafoori said.

“The trauma that they’ve suffered is immense,” he said. “The victimization that they’ve suffered is immense. And when they come here, it’s a journey.”

Success stories

Pizano isn’t the only participant of the Safe Place program who has found success. Others have thrived academically and professionally, Ghafoori said. Some are in the UNLV School of Architecture; others have been accepted to Ivy League schools or work at Las Vegas companies.

“I always say that the next person who comes here could be the next Michelle Obama, could be Picasso, could be Einstein, could be the next … president,” he said.

“… We want these kids to be able to chase their dreams.”

Pizano credited NPHY for teaching him how to take care of himself. Staff members celebrated his birthdays with him and cheered him on when he was running track in high school.

“They were my first real family,” Pizano said.

Pizano hopes to become a full-time motivational speaker.

“I want people to understand that it’s not always a choice,” he said. “These kids, most of the time, don’t choose to be on the streets. There’s an underlying factor. When there’s no role model, they don’t see any other opportunity other than drugs, smoking and streets.

“It’s really up to us as Americans to come together and help these kids to get out of this crappy situation.”

Contact Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@viewnews.com or 702-383-0496. Follow @DariaSokolova77 on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Star Trek fans on show’s enduring popularity
Star Trek fans at the Star Trek Convention 2018 talk about why they think the show has stayed popular across the years Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Restoring classic Corvettes to perfection
Members of the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention talk about what it takes to earn the NCRS Top Flight Award for a restored Corvette at South Point in Las Vegas on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like