Advocates push to fund resource centers for Utah’s homeless teens

Feb 7, 2023, 6:40 PM | Updated: 8:16 pm

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah — The State of Utah is now pushing to help homeless students statewide by opening resource centers in public schools.

Several of the centers have already opened, thanks to local community efforts.

“There are more than 15,000 young people in the state of Utah who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. It’s not fixed, or it’s not regular, and it’s inadequate,” explained Jodi Lunt, director of Davis Education Foundation.

Teen centers, like the new one at Woods Cross High School, will help the kids who would otherwise hope to hide their homelessness. They’re the ones quietly in need.

“We can see that there are needs in every single district. Almost every single district has kids experiencing extreme poverty,” said Emily Bell McCormick, founder of The Policy Project.

McCormick is lobbying lawmakers to help school districts statewide get the ball rolling on resources, much like the six centers across Davis County.

“It’s definitely an issue that’s risen to the top, as we’re seeing it in more of our schools and districts. The cost of living is going up. The price of groceries is high, so it’s no surprise that our families are struggling right now,” said Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman.

Pierucci has pushed to get that funding into the state’s public education budget. Five million dollars will now move ahead for full approval by the executive appropriations committee, but it’s not enough for some advocates.

“It varies by district, but every district has students who are experiencing homelessness,” Pierucci explained.

While state funds might get things moving, communities will have to fundraise and come together. Whether they simply need a pantry, a study hall, or even a place to stay overnight.

“When we told the story, and when they received the information, they responded and acted. They made this possible,” Lunt said. “So what I want to the people in Davis County is thank you.”

In the Davis School District, there are more teen centers on the way for high schools, but the Davis Education Foundation already has eyes on getting some into their junior highs because there are needs for kids of all ages.

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Advocates push to fund resource centers for Utah’s homeless teens