Mama Dragons Help Open the first Residential Support Temporary Homeless Youth Shelter in Utah
By: Kristen Mitchell, Youth Futures, Executive Director
I first heard about the Mama Dragons while I was volunteering with OUTreach Resource Centers and running an LGBTQ Hotline called The Pride Empathy Line. I heard they were a fearless group of LDS women and that they were breathing fire and advocating for their beautiful gay children. My experience as an ex-Mormon had been less than positive and coming from a family where “the gay” broke up my family, I was skeptical that they could be all that! While I was preparing to open the first homeless youth shelter in the state of Utah, it seemed like every time I put out a call for help and volunteers, the Mama Dragon ladies would show up. They brought their friends, daughters, sons, husbands and mothers. As I got to know them, I became less skeptical. They embraced me and my project with such zest and passion. Anything I needed…I just put out a call!
One day while sifting through an enormous pile of donated clothing with a group of Mamas, I finally shared my story. It’s a long tearful story, but the long and short of it is that I was not allowed to spend my childhood with my beautiful mother because she was lesbian. Growing up, my sister came out as lesbian and then, low-and-behold, I was blessed with the most courageous, intelligent, passionate, balanced transgender son on the planet! My entire life feels like I’ve been surrounded by people who live outside the box! And even though I’ve tried, I couldn’t keep myself in there either.
That day, I asked them if they would consider allowing me to be a Mama Dragon, even though I had left the church. They never hesitated…And I became a Mama! Not surprisingly I fit right in. The world finally became smaller, because someone had my back. The Mama Dragons share things that we would never be able to in the big bad world. They give me courage to go on with what I do every day.
In 2014, I began to see the fruition of 6 years of dreaming about opening a center for youth. What started out as a crazy, insane idea was starting to become a reality. After spending 4 years raising a very troubled teenager (who ran away on a regular basis) and listening to LGBT youth on The Pride Empathy Hotline who were being kicked out and had no place to go…enough was enough! I had to make this shelter happen come hell-or-high-water. We soon found a building in Ogden. It was in pretty sad shape, with broken windows and booted in doors. It needed work, but I have very clear vision and a passion that is pretty much unstoppable, so the renovation project began. Mama Dragon, Jill Rowe was one of the first to show up…she brought her mom and dad and two or three other mamas with her to help out. I can’t possibly begin to name all of the Mamas who came to volunteer while we were in the process, but, Neca Allgood, Melanie Delton and Laurie Eccleston were regulars.
Gradually, the list of Mamas I came in contact with grew so huge I can’t even count them! Jen Blair, Jill Rowe and Alyson Paul (who is now on the Board at Youth Futures Shelter Home), seem to be able to move mountains. These women were able to inspire support for our most recent fundraising campaign LoveUTGiveUT, which garnered donations from 79 individual Mama Dragons.
After opening Youth Futures Shelter Home in February of 2015, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to the Mamas for resources, support and guidance for youth and parents. My passion for supporting our LGBTQ youth is constantly satisfied by providing safe shelter to the alarmingly high number of these kids. Fifty percent of the youth we see at our shelter identify as “not straight.”
As we continue to get the word out about our shelter, the number of youth we serve steadily increases. Through daytime drop-in services, community education and regular street outreach our efforts to reach as many youth as possible continues. Our hope is to reach all the youth in need of safe shelter before they land on the streets and avoid the dangerous conditions that these youth often face to survive. Thanks to our community and the Mama Dragons my vision of creating a world where all our youth have a safe, supportive and affirming place to call home, seems within reach!
To learn more about Youth Futures or to provide support please look us up online at http://www.yfut.org