The Utah Homeless Youth Drop-in Center in Downtown Salt Lake City continues to grow.
“Five years ago 25 youth a day on average is what we saw and now we see about 65 a day," says Zach Bale. He's the Vice President of External Relations with Volunteers of America in Utah and says many of the youth the center serves categorize themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender: “Our most recent survey we had about 42% identify as LGBTQ...When you look nationally it is about 1/3 across all homeless youth providers.”
Saturday, Chad Griffin, the new president of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, visited the drop-in center and discussed the results of a nationwide survey taken by more than 10,000 LGBT teens:
“We have a long ways to go in the country...it in no means a positive snapshot of LGBT youth nationwide. But, the survey that we released shows that the numbers are significantly worse here in Utah.”
Griffin says 65% of those surveyed in Utah reported being verbally harassed at school, compared to 51% nationally. It also shows 75% of teens in Utah feel they would need to move away in order to "fit in" compared to 63% of LGBT teens nationwide.
“Far too many say they are not accepted in their own home or at church, and aren’t even honest about who they are with their own medical providers. It doesn’t take rocket science to solve these problems. What we need to do is start acting like adults and acting like responsible adults to really provide a safe and loving environment for that child to be exactly who he or she was born.”
Utah was Griffin’s first stop as President of the Human Rights Campaign. Accompanying him during his visit was Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP. Bond, who was active in the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s says the fighting for LGBT equality is a similar cause: “I’ve argued loudly and widely that these are common movements with common interests and they ought to be supportive of each other.”
Bond notes the immense progress made in 2012. Last month the NAACP voted to endorse same sex marriage just two weeks after President Obama announced his support for gay marriage:
"It’s remarkable, in future years I think political scientists will look back and say what happened in America in 2012? Why did opinion on this issue as opposed to other issues move so quickly and move so starkly? And when they get the answer to that we’ll get a Pulitzer Prize.”
Saturday night Bond was the key-note speaker at the 8th Annual HRC Utah Gala at the Grand America, an event geared toward raising money and celebrating the work toward achieving equality in the community.