ST. GEORGE — Skyler Marshall, a tie-dye-wearing outreach worker at the nonprofit Youth Futures, sees the back of his van as his “bat cave,” crammed with intake forms, socks and hygiene kits so he can help homeless teens and adults at a moment’s notice.
Back at the office, he keeps an old Tide Pod container filled with condoms, ready to offer to young people who need them. And when he’s doing street outreach, he picks up discarded candy wrappers and soda bottles from sites where unsheltered individuals might be camping, partly to keep their sleeping spots hidden from people who’d try to force them out.
To Marshall, though, these efforts don’t go far enough to protect homeless adults and teens, especially those who are dealing with addiction. There’s a personal stake in this for the St. George native, who said he’s lost several of his friends to hepatitis and AIDS — and believes their deaths might have been prevented if they’d had access to substance abuse counseling and clean syringes.
His hope is to see a needle exchange program come to St. George. But he’s not sure if the conservative southern Utah community will embrace it.
“It’s something that’s desperately needed,” he said, adding that the challenge is in “the image.”
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Written by BETHANY RODGERS and TAYLOR STEVENS, The Salt Lake Tribune.
This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.
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