An Interview with Arash Ghafoori, Executive Director, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth
Arash Ghafoori is the Executive Director of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY), Southern Nevada’s most comprehensive service provider for homeless youth. Leveraging his diverse background in policy, academia, and the start-up and corporate worlds, Ghafoori has transformed NPHY into a community leader on issues affecting Southern Nevada’s homeless youth. He is a passionate advocate for disadvantaged populations and an active leader in the national and local movements to end youth homelessness, serving on the Board of Directors of the National Network for Youth, the Advisory Board of National Safe Place, and the Southern Nevada Homeless Continuum of Care Board.
What was your vision for the Plan and when did it begin?
The vision for the Plan is something we’ve been dreaming about for several years at NPHY. We saw a need for the community to align along a common framework from a leadership perspective to avoid a bunch of runaway trains all serving the same issue but being on separate tracks, not going to the same destination. The Plan was born from a need to have a shared map that points everyone in the same direction.
What is the timeline of the Plan moving forward?
There’s a sense of urgency. We need to mobilize as quickly as possible because the issue of youth homelessness is a 24-7 issue that takes no breaks. The Plan is designed to be action-oriented: next we will prioritize the outlined strategies to accomplish our identified goals by defining short, medium, and long-term milestones from the lenses of policy/legislation, public-private partnerships, housing and services, fundraising, and system intersectionality. We will start simultaneous initiatives on all of those fronts because the Plan has milestones for each of those areas that intersect with one another leading toward an ultimate outcome. The timeline for us is as soon as possible and it begins with having the Plan, prioritizing strategies, raising resources, and recruiting more stakeholders to help drive the Plan’s identified strategies.
What are the most important elements needed to end youth homelessness?
More awareness, resources, integration, and breaking down of silos and working together. We need to continue and expand community-wide collaborative efforts around ending youth homelessness. I think this issue needs to be elevated and prioritized through action by every jurisdiction and our state as a whole and supported by businesses and individuals so we can recruit great minds and ample resources to help providers and those on the ground fighting youth homelessness on a daily basis.
Once the Plan is in motion, where do you see NPHY going from there? How will you maintain the Plan? Will NPHY develop something new depending on the developing needs of the youth?
We know that not one system, not one group, not one agency can do this alone. Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth will be doing two things: guiding the implementation of the Plan with the community and as an agency and responding to the Plan specifically through our programs and service offerings. To further the Plan at the systems-level, NPHY and the community are going to work on developing a leadership team for implementation of the Plan itself. This structure will keep the pulse of The Movement, be the eyes and ears of The Movement, and convene and mobilize existing and new partners to respond to the plan by adopting and implementing certain components. In addition, the Plan identifies metrics for each goal and these ultimate indicators will be used to report progress at future summits. As an agency, we are going to respond to the Plan by implementing elements from the Plan, which include but are not limited to expanding our outreach partnerships, doubling down on street outreach efforts, increasing and diversifying our housing stock, leveraging technology and other tools outlined in the Plan, coming up with ideas to address some of the gaps that the data reveals, and contributing toward the Plan’s vision of making youth homelessness rare, brief, one-time, and equitably addressed through our program design and service delivery.
What is your vision for the future of youth homelessness?
Where we have a community and service environment so rich in resources and support that youth can immediately access so they do not have to spend a single night on the streets. The Plan’s vision is realistic: although we cannot eliminate all the root causes of why youth becomes homeless, we can create a community where, when youth homelessness does occur, it is rare, brief, one-time, and equitably addressed. That is when I know we’ve been successful.