OUTreach director joins Family Acceptance Project

Friday , March 14, 2014 - 11:47 AM

Marian Edmonds Allen...

JaNae Francis, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN – Local efforts to address the need to keep youth from turning to homelessness now are drawing national resources to the area and are having international implications.

Officials from the international Family Acceptance Project announced Tuesday that Rev. Marian Edmonds Allen, who has served two years as the director of OUTreach Resource Centers in Ogden, a local gay youth service organization that has evolved into a youth homeless organization as well, will join the project in a new position as national program director.

In her new position, Allen will continue to expand the Family Acceptance Project’s work in Utah in collaboration with community organizations, government agencies and religious institutions to pursue a new family-based prevention program developed by the Family Acceptance Project.

“This new family-based prevention program will build on the work that the Family Acceptance Project has done in collaboration with Marian Edmonds Allen,” said a press release from the national project.

Utah youth still to benefit

“I’m not bailing on youth homelessness,” Allen said in announcing she was leaving the OUTreach Resource Centers. “I’m going to be doing it more, with more resources.”

Allen, who said her work in Utah already has been based on her former work with the Family Acceptance Project, called the need for her increasing efforts urgent.

“It’s heartening and energizing to bring our work full circle as we launch the first solution-based program to prevent tragic outcomes for LGBT youth that are rooted in family rejection,” she said.

Allen gave much credit to the Standard-Examiner’s Young and Homeless Initiative for the surge in interest and attention to problems youth face, which have led some to homelessness.

“People who know about it are talking more and stepping up,” she said, specifically naming the Family Acceptance Project and the Ogden Rotary Club, which has announced an effort to collect items for homeless youth after being inspired by the Young and Homeless Initiative.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project, also gave credit to the newspaper initiative for a surge in community efforts.

“The newspaper taking a sense of responsibility to address this will actually enable the community to address this issue,” Ryan said.

“The work of the paper to focus on the needs of homeless youth is especially important,” she said. “Journalists have the opportunity to put a human face on issues that may seem overwhelming.”

She said newspaper stories humanize the lives of those who suffer.

“I have just felt like there is this avalanche and there are a lot of people working really hard and it’s great that there is going to be more national help,” Allen said.

Tuesday, the Family Acceptance Project, located at San Francisco State University, announced the launching of its first evidence-based program to prevent suicide and homelessness and to increase family support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, to which Allen will be a major contributor.

Family-based initiative

The program will be the first family-focused initiative of the projectto prevent suicide and homelessness among LGBT youth and young adults, said the press release from the Family Acceptance Project.

The release said that Ryan has provided education and consultation in Utah on reducing risk and supporting LGBT youth and young adults for more than 25 years.

The release said the program will be based in Utah to address critical needs in the state and will later be implemented in other parts of the country.

“Rev. Edmonds Allen will remain based in Utah and will coordinate this critical new program to prevent suicide and homelessness for LGBT youth while expanding the training, consultation, family intervention and faith-based worked developed by Dr. Ryan and her team over nearly 14 years.”

Homelessness/suicide serious concerns

Suicide and homelessness have been identified as serious health concerns for LGBT adolescents by government and public agencies nationally, said the press release.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Utah youth ages 10-17 and young adults ages 18-24, both higher than the national average, said the release.

“More than 5,000 youth are estimated to experience homelessness in Utah per year,” said the release. “Of these at least 40 percent are LGBT and the majority are from religious and socially conservative families, with 60 percent from Mormon homes.”

In recent weeks, the number of newly homeless LGBT Mormon youth who sought help from community agencies increased five-fold, the release said.

“The new program will focus on family and community levels to help families decrease rejecting behaviors that research from the Family Acceptance Project has shown contribute to serious health risks and to increase family support, which this research has linked with well-being, self-esteem and as protecting against serious health risks, including suicide,” said the release.

“Homelessness has exploded among LGBT youth in tandem with increased financial pressures and a significant drop in the age of coming out as access to accurate information enables LGBT young people to understand who they are at earlier ages,” Ryan said.

“Unfortunately, parents and families – especially those from conservative backgrounds – have very limited access to accurate information on how to help their LGBT children and their families,” she said. “A cornerstone of our work is to help families understand that they don’t have to choose between their LGBT children and their faith.”

She said the Utah prevention program will serve as a model to demonstrate the need to go “upstream” to engage in primary prevention to build healthy futures for LGBT youth and to help keep families together.

Two needed to replace Allen

In her job as executive director of OUTreach Resource Centers, Allen will be replaced by two co-executive directors.

Rachel Peterson will be the executive director for youth services and youth homelessness. Peterson is a recognized expert in youth homelessness and has been researching youth homelessness in Utah for several years.

The former director of the Cache Youth Research Center in Logan, Peterson has a background in social epidemiology and related research and has developed and implemented a ground-breaking education al intervention for at-risk youth and youth experiencing homelessness.

Charles L. Frost will become the executive director of adult services and community engagement.

Frost will oversee mentoring programs, community engagement and adult services throughout Utah.

Frost has been involved in leadership development, organizational development, brand value and extension, LGBT adult services, mentoring and coaching, advocacy and activism for more than 20 years, according to his biography.

OUTreach Board President Michael Videtich said the hiring of the two professionals in Allen’s place will help the centers further expand.

Community getting involved

The Standard-Examiner is donating $1 for efforts to fight youth homelessness for every donation made online as part of the Standard-Examiner Young and Homeless Initiative, up to $10,000. To donate, visit https://cares.standard.net/young-homeless/.

Since the initiative began a month ago, $2,415 has been donated by the community for a total of $2,443 including matching funds.

Contact reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228 or jfrancis@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE.

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