US: SafeXmas Is Giving LGBTQ Youth in Utah a Home for the Holidays

December can be a difficult month for LGBTQ people with nowhere to celebrate the holidays. This is especially true in Utah, where queer youth may be ostracized from their families and communities after coming out.

But one event in Provo made Christmas a little brighter this year: SafeXmas provided shelter, food, and a welcoming community to young adults in the capital of Mormon country. Held at Provo’s Marriott Courtyard, organizers with SafeXmas estimate that 35 clients—some LGBTQ, some not—were served this year.

An additional 75 people were mailed care packages for the holidays.

The yearly event is a project of Jerilyn Hassell Pool, a mother of five who relocated to Provo from Medford, Oreg. last year. Pool tells INTO she was inspired to create a space for LGBTQ youth in Utah following a 2015 policy from the Church of Latter-day Saints which branded the children of same-sex couples as “apostates.” They would only be eligible for baptism after renouncing their parents’ relationship upon turning 18.

In the three months after that policy was enacted, the support group Mama Dragons estimates that at least than 30 LGBTQ youth took their own lives.

“Many people felt cast out of their own families, unwelcome at family events and holidays,” Pool says in an email. “I realized that I could simply host a family-style Christmas and invite every LGBTQ Mormon who wanted to join me.” Read more via INTO