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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

LGBTQ Resource Center 'Encircle' Opens Third Location In Utah

A photo of the Encircle house in St. George.
Courtesy of Encircle St. George
The Encircle building was donated and renovated to become a space for LGBTQ youth and their families.

Southern Utah is getting its own LGBTQ resource center. Encircle already has locations in Provo and Salt Lake City which serve youth and families, and this will be its third center in Utah.

In a newly renovated home in downtown St. George, LGBTQ youth and families across Southern Utah can come together for therapy, events or just to hang out. Julie Benson, the director of the newest Encircle location said the home was a labor of love — because it was donated by a board member and renovated by members of the community.

When Benson first accepted the job , she said she wondered how community members would react to a center like this.

“But I have to tell you, I am just amazed, totally, totally just so grateful that the community here has been nothing but embracing,” she said.

Benson said she’s heard from people in Cedar City, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, as well as students from local universities who are interested in the center. She said it is meant to serve all of Southern Utah — from LGBTQ youth, their families, allies or people just trying to learn more about the community.

Stephen Lambert, Pride of Southern Utah executive director, said the new location offers a safe place for young people, something he wishes he had when he was a kid. He said coming out and coming to terms with their identity as teenagers can be extremely difficult.

“That's even more complicated when that individual lives in a very conservative town like St. George or Provo,” Lambert said. “And so that makes it even more important for them to be able to have that emotional support.”

According to state data, nearly 50% of gay and lesbian youth have had suicidal thoughts in the past year, compared to just 15% of their heterosexual peers.

St. George is a very conservative town. But overwhelmingly, they are a kind town with loving hearts,” Lambert added. “We're very fortunate.

The grand opening is on Saturday and all three locations across the state will have limited drop-in hours next week.

If you or anyone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 800-273-8255.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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