The Eddy House Aims to Break The Stereotype

RENO, NEVADA — February, 2016: Philip Estrada stands in front of Eddy House where he received food, bus passes, and interview clothing. (Photo Courtesy of EddyHouse.org)

Philip Estrada, 22, visited the Eddy House in February of 2016 to seek help to stay on track with school and receive the resources he needed to survive. The Eddy House gave him food, bus passes, and interview clothing that helped him land a job in community health work.

In December 2015, Estrada was diagnosed with epilepsy and began to lose hope.

“I was scared to go outside, and I was a little bit of a shut in,” Estrada said. “I was already 21 and didn’t know what to do and didn’t have the motivation to do anything.”

With help from the Eddy House, Estrada recently passed the writing and math section of the HiSET exam. The HiSET exam helps people earn a state-issued high school equivalency credential. Estrada also plans to train to join the Reno Bighorns as a basketball player.

“I’ve had a dream of joining the Reno Bighorns since I was 12, and it’s more for me to see if I can do it,” Estrada said. “I’ve been taking notes on training from videos from YouTube.”

Estrada plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno to study community health science if playing for the Reno Bighorns does not work out. He is currently a paid intern at St. Vincent’s Program through the Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada.

“Everyone has the ability to actually succeed out here and to not be scared to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to be judged,” Estrada said.

The Eddy House is a Reno-based youth resource center that has been helping homeless youth ages 12 to 24 since 2011. They provide basic needs such as clothing, food, and hygiene products.

According to their website, the Eddy House has had over 6,200 interactions with 93 percent of walk-ins being aged 18 to 24.

Michele Gehr is the Executive Director at the drop-in center and says that the primary focus of the Eddy House is to care for the homeless youth community, but their secondary focus is community education- especially when it comes to assumptions being made about the correlation between race and youth homelessness.

“I think that there’s a misconception in the community that homeless people are people of color and the reality is, is that our makeup of Eddy House reflects the population, so mainly Caucasian males,” Gehr said. “The perception of the public is that it’s all people of color and I think we work very hard to not perpetuate those stereotypes.”

A study conducted by the Congressional Research Center found that approximately 51 percent of homeless youth in the U.S. are white.

While giving tours at the Eddy House, Gehr has noticed that the community tends to relate homelessness with the minority population.

“I’ve had people say ‘What is wrong with the black community?’ and I have to tell them we’re primarily Caucasian here,” Gher said. “People are usually shocked and surprised.”

The Eddy House believes that data is an important factor in educating others and therefore has become a data-driven drop-in center for the community.

Meredith Tanzer is an administrator at the Eddy House and coordinates the homeless youth count every year in Reno.

“We’re talking about the statistics that are coming out and try to highlight that,” Tanzer said. “We actually have data in our community and we’re working to produce better things in our community.”

The Eddy House encourages individuals to speak up, inform, and break the stereotype by educating friends and family.

“Sometimes we are limited in what we’re actually able to do financially, but where the power is, is in your voice,” Tanzer said.

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