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
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Mojave Max at Springs Preserve
File footage of Mojave Max at Springs Preserve. (Springs Preserve)
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Driver dies in single-vehicle crash
One person is dead after an early Wednesday morning crash in the northwest valley. The single-vehicle crash was called in about 1:35 a.m. on Jones Boulevard just north of Deer Springs Way, according to Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Robert Stauffer. The driver, who was the only person inside the vehicle, died at the scene.
Uber Health to Improve Patient Ride-Hailing Services
Uber Health to Improve Patient Ride-Hailing Services On Thursday, Uber launched its Uber Health platform for healthcare providers. Medical facilities, rehab centers, clinics and hospitals can book rides for patients from a centralized dashboard – no app required. According to Techcrunch, Uber Health general manager Chris Weber noted some 3.6 million Americans miss appointments due to lack access to reliable transportation. Uber’s endeavors into health care trace back to 2014, when Uber first offered on-demand flu shots in large markets across the U.S. Since then there have been similar efforts throughout the world, from diabetes and thyroid testing in India, to subsidized rides for breast cancer screening in the U.S., to many more. Last summer, over 100 healthcare organizations joined the platform during a private beta. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas firefighters put out blaze along Bonanza Road
Las Vegas firefighters put out a blaze that burned for about 15 minutes Feb. 20, 2018, along Bonanza Road, across from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Jeff Mosier/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cabana Market Shooting -- Persons of Interest
On February 3, 2018 at approximately 1:57 p.m., patrol officers were dispatched to a parking lot located in the 3900 block of East Owens Avenue to investigate a report that a man had been shot. Responding officers located an unresponsive adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like