LGBTQ resource center Encircle plans to open location in St. George, its third in Utah

LGBTQ youth gather in front of the Encircle Provo location, Provo, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Encircle Facebook page, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The LGBTQ resource center Encircle is opening its first location in Southern Utah this fall.

Encircle is a rapidly growing organization that started in Provo in 2016 when Stephanie Larson, Encircle’s founder and chief executive officer, purchased the Clint Ford and Bruce Bastian Encircle Home. Encircle has two existing locations in Utah: one in Provo and one in Salt Lake City.

The Provo grand opening in February 2017 helped create a safe space for LGBTQ youth and adults in the area. Encircle celebrated the grand opening of the Salt Lake City location, named the John Williams Encircle Home, last February. Volunteers and donors have been invited to help with the renovations of each location, and each location has a theme to help the youth and families feel at home and hopeful during their time in each house.

“We have only seen the best in people,” Larson said. “We’ve seen people giving their time and resources and their love to help the youth. It’s been really great to see, and I assume we will see the same kind of love from the St. George community.”

Larson said the mission of Encircle is to bring families and the community together to help LGBTQ youth and enable them to thrive.

Stephanie Larson, her family, local politicians and volunteers cut the ceremonial grand opening ribbon at the Encircle Provo location, Provo, Utah, Feb. 14, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Encircle Facebook page, St. George News

Larson started Encircle after learning about the suicide rates in Utah and how LGBTQ youth are three times more likely to commit suicide than straight youth, she said. Larson said after learning about Utah suicide rates, she didn’t see any resources readily available for families of LGBTQ youth in Provo where she lived.

“It just felt like instead of things moving forward, things were moving backwards in my community,” she said.

Larson called her husband’s uncle John Williams, who came out as gay over 50 years ago in Salt Lake City, to see what they could do to help, she said.

The pair decided the best thing they could do is start a home for LGBTQ youth and their families so that people who felt like they didn’t have a safe place to go could feel at home. Larson said the original idea was to provide a place where kids could go to “eat cookies and do their homework,” but it grew from there.

At first, she and Williams looked at making those homes into a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth, but they realized there might be a way to “get in there earlier” and help parents understand and be affirming to their LGBTQ children to keep families together.

“We’ve seen really great things happen,” she said. “We see these kids come in who sometimes are hanging their heads and within a few weeks of meeting people like them, you just see their whole demeanor change.”

At this time, Larson said she does not have a more concrete opening date as she is reliant on funding. She said she has owned the house for around one year but is looking for more donations in order to renovate the home and get it ready for the grand opening.

The new Encircle location in St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Encircle Facebook page, St. George News

Encircle offers a variety of services for LGBTQ individuals and their families, including therapy. In the past, Encircle has paired up with an outside provider to offer therapy to LGBTQ youth and their families. Now, Encircle will have its own in-house therapists to help the organization realize its goal of having “the best LGBTQ therapy available in the United States,” she said.

The St. George location will have two therapy rooms; Larson said the Provo location completes about 450 sessions of therapy each month and about a third of the youth participating in therapy pay roughly $10 per session.

“The therapy has been a really important part of helping the youth at critical times and learning to be more loving of themselves and learn how to navigate who they are,” Larson said.

The organization will also be holding an Encircle Summit in Lehi on Dec. 7. The summit, known as the Ignite LGBTQ Youth Summit, is open to LGBTQ youth, their parents and families, and allies.

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