Fred and Nancy Gillis, founders of the 14-year-old Center for Independent Living, announced their retirement on Tuesday and handed over control of the downtown homeless youth shelter to HELP of Southern Nevada.
“It’s been a long journey,” Fred Gillis said at a noon press conference. “We never had any idea the amount of work it would take to get this place going.”
The Gillises opened the shelter at Las Vegas Boulevard and Owens Avenue in 1994. Since then, it has housed 3,000 16- to 21-year-old youths.
Fred Gillis said it was time to step away from running the “24 hours a day, seven days a week” operation. He promised a seamless transition.
“I was very afraid … that we wouldn’t find anyone with the passion we had for this group,” he said.
With HELP taking over, he said, “I know this place is going to be bigger and stronger in the next 10 years.”
The nonprofit Center for Independent Living provides housing, counseling, substance abuse treatment and job placement to up to 61 homeless youths at one time. The youths can stay as long as they are enrolled in school, are working or both. They also must be drug-free, are required to save money and must observe nightly curfews.
The center’s goal is to prepare the young people to care for themselves by teaching them how to find a job, cook for themselves, get along with roommates and pay bills.
Nancy Gillis thanked the community for always coming through with donations and volunteering.
“I can’t even believe the help that we get,” she said.
HELP of Southern Nevada was established in 1970. Its programs include rental and utility assistance, homeless assistance and job readiness workshops. It also serves as the Southern Nevada call center for Nevada 2-1-1, which provides information about available health and human services.
Terrie Stanfill, HELP’s executive director, pledged to continue the work of Fred and Nancy Gillis and said the center will fill a gap in HELP’s programs.
“We didn’t have a lot of services for those under 21,” she said.
“Now, we do.”