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Heber Encircle house for LGBTQ+ youth delayed again

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Encircle Utah
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Encircle Utah says construction of its center for LGBTQ+ support in Heber City is nearly complete, but funding issues have caused the nonprofit to delay its opening.

A Heber City center for LGBTQ+ youth faces another delay in opening, and the nonprofit behind it may close altogether.

Encircle Utah, founded six years ago in Salt Lake City, has pushed its planned Heber opening in December to next year.

Encircle Vice President of Marketing Callie Birdsall-Chambers said she hopes that means next spring, but there isn’t an official target date.

“That's what we would definitely be shooting for, but I know we're just at the mercy of external external challenges.”

Encircle homes offer spaces where LGBTQ+ youth can meet with counselors and gather in groups in Salt Lake, Provo and St. George.

The nonprofit previously said that engineering challenges delayed the planned July opening of its fourth house in Heber. A new target date was announced for last fall, then a soft opening was pushed out until December. Now that’s been canceled too.

Similar to other nonprofits, Encircle attributed construction challenges to steep rises in construction costs. Simultaneously, Birdsall-Chambers said donors have withdrawn major pledges.

Encircle has also paused construction of new homes in Ogden and Logan. Like the Heber house, those were going to be products of a campaign that began in 2021 and raised $8 million for new locations.

Birdsall-Chambers also said part of the reason for the delay is that Heber City hasn’t finalized Encircle’s occupancy permit yet.

Still, she said Heber is the nonprofit’s immediate focus.

“We are super committed to opening our doors in Heber because the youth have been seeing it under construction. They've been waiting for it to open, and it is almost complete.”

Encircle’s financial issues affect the nonprofit as a whole, not just the Heber location. According to administrators, the nonprofit could be forced to shut down entirely.

It’s not for lack of interest — Birdsall-Chambers said Encircle now supports 80% more youth in its current three homes than it did last year.

In recent weeks, Founder and CEO Stephanie Larsen warned staff and supporters that financial troubles could force Encircle to close its doors.

Birdsall-Chambers said it’s unclear how close Encircle is to shutting down, but it is renewing fundraising pushes to stay afloat.

“Like any other organization, if we don't have money coming in, we'll either have to continue to pause construction, we will have to delay openings. People are out there, and they want to support us. It's just as simple as really getting the community behind us as well to help keep our doors open.”

Now, Encircle’s planned expansion into Idaho and Colorado is on hold. It also cut more than a quarter of its staff.

Birdsall-Chambers said sacrifices Encircle is making are “devastating,” but the goal is to continue to provide for kids in need.

“We know that one in five youth 10 to 25 identify as LGBTQ+, and over 42% of them have seriously considered suicide in the past year. And those numbers are why we do what we do, and we know that having that one person that supports them, they're eight times less likely to consider suicide. So, these are staggering statistics, and we know that we're needed more than ever.”

More information about the nonprofit is available at encircletogether.org.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.
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