Las Vegas Homeless Teens in Spotlight - 8 News NOW

Alyson McCarthy, Reporter

Las Vegas Homeless Teens in Spotlight

Posted: Updated:

More than 3,500 homeless children roam the streets of Las Vegas every year. Many fall victim to drugs, drinking, pornography, and prostitution.

Beyond the lights of the Las Vegas Strip, there's a dark reality these Christian high school students knew little or nothing about -- until recently.

"It's like looking into a whole new world," one high school student said. "They knew nothing about homelessness -- they just pictured a bum on the streets," adds Jose Diaz, a computer science teacher who supervised a group of Faith-Lutheran High School students as they shot and edited a full-length documentary on teenage homelessness.

And it was a rude awakening for many, like senior Dave Matthews. "Being in a safe, middle class neighborhood in Summerlin, it's just another world out there. I. can't really describe how shocking it was to me," Matthews said.

"I can't imagine what it would be like to be homeless, to just be on the streets, without food or shelter, just living day to day," said sophomore Matthew Inouye, who helped edit the documentary entitled, "Beyond the Lights."

The latest statistics on teenage homelessness are unsettling. In Nevada more than 3,500 children sought help at emergency shelters in 2003. Only half, or 1,800, were eventually placed in foster care. And more than 4,500 children were reported as runaways to police.

I spent all my time petty hustling for money," says one unidentified homeless youth profiled in the documentary. "I'd sell drugs to get money for food or somewhere to stay. Or, I would sleep in abandoned houses. I just thank God I'm still here."

Many of the students who took part in making the documentary on homeless teenagers admit that heading into the project they had no idea how much it would affect them.

"My perception of my daily life has definitely changed." high school senior Dave Matthews said. "Because I've now seen how really blessed I am compared to those people who have nothing."

Another student, Anthony Santos, who shot the documentary, said, "There were times when I was bummed out just thinking about what happens to these kids, just how unfair it was."

But telling their stories was only part of the project. Once these students saw the need, they reached out to help, tutor and even befriend these lost teenagers

"I felt a real call to do this," said Matthews. "Just letting these kids know there are other young people who care about them. That's a big deal."

And with the blinders now off, these teens say it is better to be aware, because then you can make a difference.

"I'd like to think so," Matthews added. "They now know that people care about them. I hope that does make a difference."

There will be several public screenings of the documentary  "Beyond the Lights," starting next week at Faith-Luther Junior Senior High School in Summerlin.

Contact Reporter Alyson McCarthy

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.