26-year-old changing entire landscape of resources for unsheltered youth in San Antonio

Kameron Rhys just won a state award for using personal experiences to close gaps in services

Kameron Rhys's experience with homelessness at 22 taught him what gaps need to be filled when it comes to unsheltered youth. He's using his voice to make big plans come to fruition.

SAN ANTONIO - – Kameron Rhys may only be 26 years old, but he is changing the entire landscape of resources for San Antonio youth experiencing homelessness.

“Back in 2018, I became homeless through somebody else’s drug use, that made it unsafe for me to stay in the place that I was at. And I really didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Rhys said.

Rhys landed at the Thrive Youth Center at Haven for Hope, where he met friends who helped him start the Youth Action Board.

The YAB is a group of young people working to close gaps in services for unsheltered youth. It’s supported by the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH).

“I was like, ‘You know what? My voice was heard. Let me keep making it heard, and let me try to get other voices heard as well,” he said.

The Youth Action Board helped secure almost $7 million in HUD funding to open a youth drop-in center in downtown San Antonio at Travis Park United Methodist Church called the Young Adult Stability and Support (YASS) center.

“They offer education to help them get their GEDs or even their diplomas. You come in, you can get those resources, you can take a nap, you can get something to eat, take a shower, you know, all of that kind of stuff. And that’s where it’s really needed,” he explained.

Rhys still serves as the YAB President, and in 2020 he was also appointed to be on the board of SARAH.

“I want to help the people that are being discarded. And I have to basically put myself on the front lines for that. And I’m perfectly willing to fight that fight for them because they deserve it,” Rhys said.

The state took notice, and on September 29, Rhys accepted an award from the Texas Homeless Network for his outstanding work.

“It was a really humbling experience to not even know that I was nominated, but then to get that email saying that I was awarded this for the work that I’ve done for the community,” he said.

However, Rhys is not stopping there, he now works for Corazon Ministries, an organization in San Antonio helping anyone experiencing homelessness.

“It really takes it that step further when you’ve actually had that experience, you’re able to reach your clients a lot easier that way. It’s helped create more genuine bonds and I think they want to come here and get help,” Rhys said.

He’s also going to school for a sociology degree, and he’s got big plans in mind.

“I want to start my own nonprofit that addresses those gaps in resources, and I want it to be as low barrier as possible. So it’s going to be basically all encompassing of a drop in center,” Rhys said.

Rhys wants it to be a shelter with extended age programs, grant writing, and everything needed to support youth currently falling through the cracks.

He said an all-encompassing center like that could stop chronic homelessness in its tracks.

“It’s just really hard to get out of if you’re not taught the proper way to be an adult. They don’t get the proper help that they need. They don’t get they don’t get the case management that helps them with the life skills of how to budget, you know, how to save,” he said.

With that level of support, Rhys knows his peers will succeed, just like he has.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.