Sunday, Aug. 10, 2008 | 2:07 a.m.
Kathleen Boutin can speak to tired and hungry runaways who have been aimlessly wandering the streets — and get them to listen. Hers is a talent born of the understanding that comes from having been there.
On a recent night recounted in a Las Vegas Sun story Tuesday by reporter Robin Urevich, Boutin took aside two runaway girls, 12 and 14, and told them, “I ran away when I was 13. I used to be where you are.”
The girls were on the streets with two other runaways, boys 9 and 10. All said they were on the run from intolerable home environments.
Within hours of their making contact through a hotline (toll free 1-866-827-3723) with Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, founded by Boutin seven years ago, the four children had eaten, taken some good advice and been accepted at Child Haven, Clark County’s home for abandoned, abused or neglected kids.
Within a week they were released back to their homes, to an uncertain future, but with the knowledge that there is a place they can turn for immediate help if life again becomes so unbearable they think they must strike out on their own.
Boutin, 41, says the scope of the homeless or runaway children problem is immense — about 300 are living by themselves on the streets of Las Vegas on any night.
Her organization, funded by government grants and private donations, serves as much more than a referral agency to Child Haven, which is hard-pressed to meet an overwhelming demand for its services.
Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (www.nphy.org), with its caring and “been there” staff, operates adult-supervised housing of its own, provides emergency overnight shelter, acts as broker between children and their parents and offers rental assistance, counseling, onsite academic classes and necessities such as clothing, phone cards, showers and hot meals.
Boutin and her staff are making a difference — for the children, for the children’s families and for the whole Las Vegas community.