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In our opinion: New shelter, resources offer help to homeless youths

FILE: The VOA Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City Tuesday, May 24, 2016. The new 30-bed shelter will offer 24/7 support and enhanced programming to support teens struggling with homelessness.
FILE: The VOA Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City Tuesday, May 24, 2016. The new 30-bed shelter will offer 24/7 support and enhanced programming to support teens struggling with homelessness.
Deseret News

At any given time, the exact number of young people in Utah experiencing homelessness is a mystery. Estimates range from several hundred to several thousand, but those who work with displaced youths know the number is significant and the problems facing that population are particularly troublesome and often heart-rending. A recently opened facility will offer services specifically aimed at homeless teenagers and young adults, including overnight shelter and ways to assist in getting their lives on track. This resource has been long-needed and represents an important effort by our community to help kids who find themselves in a most vulnerable and desperate situation.

In Salt Lake City, the Volunteers of America have opened the Utah Youth Resource Center, a modern facility that will offer the first-ever 24/7 shelter and resource services center for homeless youths ages 15 to 22. The previous facility for youths was opened for limited hours, resulting in a large number of kids forced into the streets overnight. The new center was paid for with donations from 500 public and private donors who deserve thanks for stepping up to address a problem that demands as much attention as the community can offer it.

A facility in Ogden run by a nonprofit organization has offered similar services since late 2014 as another example of outreach by a community with compassion toward those struggling through adolescence to find their place in the world.

It is estimated that 27 percent of Utah’s homeless population is comprised of school-age children. The late-teenage and young adult segment of that group is often homeless on their own, without family support. Nearly half of them identify as LBGT, and many have reported attempts at suicide. They find themselves where they are due to circumstances most often beyond their control, and without the proper intervention and guidance, they face a future with little promise.

Those who work with homeless youths have numerous success stories about kids who were able, with mentoring and support, to deal with the circumstances that led them to be without a home. The path that leads them to a shelter is not one that can’t be altered, but it takes a community effort to see that it is. The programs now in place are worthy of public and private support so that all that can be done is done to help young people without a proper anchor in their lives.