Katrina is an LGBTQ homeless youth in Utah. What moved me right away about Katrina's story is that she lives indoors as a homeless youth, yet spoke of some of the same kinds of mental and emotional hardships as the homeless youth living outdoors.
"I stay in the womens’ shelter, where there are no resources for youth my age," Katrina told me. "Teenagers need more sleep and have completely different needs than adults."
Homeless shelters are not available to youth in Utah. This means that Utah has a higher percentage of homeless youth living outdoors than the national average. While some LGBTQ youth like Katrina (who are under the age of 20), stay in adult shelters, they still have a hard time getting all of their needs met and risk further discrimination.
"I'm kind of stuck in two worlds," she told me. "At the women's shelter there is no one there that I can depend on. And because I stay at the adult shelter, sometimes I am treated differently by the other kids. We are all family here [at the Homeless Youth Resource Center]. But it would be nice if we could all live together in one place - somewhere safe where we would be allowed to grow up and get all of our needs met."
The Homeless Youth Resource Center (VOA.UT) provides resources and programs for homeless youth. The Utah Pride Center also does what it can to help LGBTQ in crisis. Because of lack of funding, these organizations and others like them can only offer limited resources to the youth they serve.
Katrina made it clear to me that homeless youth are just like youth with families. When they get their basic needs met, they want to do other things than just survive. They want to go to college and become active members of the community. Katrina spoke to me of her dreams to go to college and someday make a living doing something she loves.
"It is hard to be homeless, whether or not you stay in a shelter," she told me. "I know many kids out here who feel alone and abandoned. No matter what, it seems like we have been left behind. It is weird to me that some people think we are asking for so much. We are only asking that we have a chance - a chance to show you who we are. And not even that - sometimes we are only asking for breakfast. How is that any different than any other kid?"
The Homeless Youth Resource Center recently lost funding that helped provide homeless youth breakfast. Within a matter of days after hearing Katrina speak at our Launch Event, Ginger Phillips (a simple member of our community), made it possible for the homeless youth in Salt Lake City to receive breakfast everyday. Now her church, the Sacred Light of Christ, donates their time, energy, and resources to make sure this happens.
This is a powerful example of how one passionate person can make a positive impact and of how the community itself can reach out to these youth in need.
Katrina can be seen as a guest speaker at our Utah Launch event on our YouTube channel OperationShine. LINK: KATRINA