New research shows that there are over 5,000 youth who experience homelessness in Utah each year, and this number is likely a large underestimate. About 40 percent of homeless youth in Utah identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and 50 percent of these youth come youth come from LDS families.
OUTreach Resource Center, a center for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and allied youth will present a community forum tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Clearfield Library, 562 S. 1000 E., Clearfield, Utah, to highlight new numbers showing the increase of homeless youth in the state. The forum is free and open to the public.
Epidemiologist and youth homelessness expert Rachel Peterson will present her findings and talk about her experiences working with homeless youth in Utah and her time as a homeless youth in St. George. Cai Noble, Operation Shine America, will share her story of living on the streets as a youth and what the culture of homeless youth is like.
Special guest Rep. Gage Froerer will discuss the bill he is preparing to address youth homelessness in Utah.
“These numbers show that it’s time for the compassionate people of Utah to take a stand to prevent youth homelessness and help the youth who live out in the cold or in squats. We see too many youth whose parents disown and discard them for being gay or seeming gay — it’s time for our communities to say no to discarding children,” said Rev. Marian Edmonds, executive director of the OUTreach Resource Centers.
Peterson’s additional findings:
- 30% of youth have been homeless for over one year
- 42% of homeless youth have been in foster care. We know that they often experience harassment and abuse in the foster care system for their sexual orientation or gender expression, and some youth choose homelessness over these environments.
- 56% of youth experienced abuse before becoming homeless and 37% experienced abuse after becoming homeless
- Many youth have engaged in survival sex, trading their bodies for food, shelter or other basic necessities. The risk of exploitation for youth on the streets is extremely high.
- Nearly 40% of homeless youth have attempted suicide. Two of every five homeless youth in Utah have tried to take their own life. And many more do take their lives.