by Austin Miller-Anderson
In November 2011, Ogden OUTreach Resource Center hired a new executive director. Until then, many Utahns had never heard of Ogden OUTreach. In the beginning of 2012 the new director, Marian Edmonds, was committed to making a change in the community and making the OUTreach Resource Center known. OUTreach participated in most of the LGBTQ events that took place in Northern Utah last year. OUTreach has changed the city of Ogden and Weber Country tremendously.
But how could this one organization have such a big impact?
In 2012 OUTreach has transitioned from a local drop-in center to a full-featured organization with educational programs, wellness programs and activities for youth. It has also saved lives by transforming communities in Utah and beyond. There are now more than 20 centers modeled directly on OUTreach Resource Center throughout the country and more are on the way. OUTreach is open every Wednesday and Thursday night as a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and allies. Available to the youth are psychologists Dr. Heather Ambrose and Dr. Teri Kay, a resource center with food, clothing and supplies for homeless youth and youth in need, healthy meals, a library and many other useful tools and resources. Classes and workshops include healthy sexuality, art, music, cooking, exercise, education and vocational opportunities, support groups and special guest speakers. In July, the organization held its first annual youth summit aimed at teaching the general community about the issues surrounding the gay community. The same event is planned for this summer. Along with the youth summit, there were forums held throughout the year on topics such as bullying and suicide, and in early May a vigil was held at the Ogden Amphitheater for victims of suicide with more than 400 in attendance.
In the coming months, the Center will be working on community safety, advocating for safe schools and anti-bullying education, as well as putting extra emphasis on homeless LGBT youth. A survey conducted at the Center has shown that 27 percent of the attending youth are homeless, which is increasing as time passes. The volunteer population at the center has skyrocketed from 18 in the beginning of 2012 to 36 at the end. Youth attendance has also tripled in the past year. The largest project currently taking place is the Safe and Sound Host Home Program which matches up homeless LGBT youth with welcoming families. Mormons Building Bridges are active supporters of Safe and Sound, helping with the particular focus the program has to prevent Mormon LGBT youth from homelessness and encouraging Mormon families to welcome and support youth.
Volunteer coordinator Jackson Carter has also been very busy as the first openly gay contestant on The Biggest Loser. He is planning to teach youth the importance of physical fitness and living a healthy life. NBC has taken more than 20 hours of video footage to use for the popular TV show, which has brought national attention. With all that, nothing is greater than the leadership and actions of the attending youth. Youth who attend are taking enormous steps to do their part in the community by starting a radio show on Weber State University’s 88.1 FM station to discuss healthy living.
Over the past year, OUTreach Resource Center and its members have made a triumph in overcoming many of the battles of growing up gay in Utah. Although they can’t completely vanquish the aforementioned challenges, they are taking them head-on.