Encircle Seeks to Provide Safe Place for LGBTQ+ Individuals


Tom Denton

The Encircle house in Salt Lake City, Utah.(Photo by Tom Denton | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Malinka Kaluarachchi, News Writer


There is a house located near the Trolley Square TRAX Station in downtown Salt Lake City which belongs to Encircle, a nonprofit organization for LGBTQ+ youth, young adults and families. Encircle’s mission is “To bring the family and community together to enable LGBTQ+ youth to thrive.”

Stephenie Larsen, the Founder and CEO of Encircle, was alarmed by the number of suicides among LGBTQ+ youth in her community and wanted to make a difference. LGBTQ+ individuals experience mental health issues at higher rates.

“Encircle is a safe place for LGBTQ+ individuals to hang out together. We also offer LGBTQ+ therapy, friendship circles and fun programs from art to music,” Larsen said.

Encircle opened its first location in Provo on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and they continue to build houses all over Utah. They plan to build eight new homes in four states. Larsen mentioned how Encircle wants LGBTQ+ individuals to thrive and never be afraid to come out and feel love in their community.

In August 2017, lead singer of Imagine Dragons Dan Reynolds visited Encircle. After, the band held the first LoveLoud Festival, which benefits LGBTQ+ nonprofits including Encircle. Encircle was also featured in the HBO original documentary “Believer.”

Encircle is open Monday through Thursday from 3-8 p.m. People of ages 12-25 are encouraged to stop by and hang out. There are also daily programs ranging from art to music; these may include online programs as well.

University of Utah students may find Encircle to be a helpful resource to them and a place to find friends. It happens to be a few TRAX stations down from the university, making it a convenient location to go to right after classes. Anyone over the age of 18 can volunteer as well.

“Encircle is a great resource for U of U students to meet friends and support one another,” Larsen said.

Friendship Circles are weekly events which allow people to tell their story and connect with peers. Encircle also offers therapy at an affordable price.

Jacob Dunford, chief operating officer at Encircle, has been at the organization since day one.

“We provide mental health services to LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. Our slogan, ‘no sides, only love,’ unites communities behind an indisputable idea — love,” Dunford said.

During the coronavirus pandemic, rates at which LGBTQ+ individuals face mental health issues have increased. 74% of LGBTQ+ people report that stress and worry brought on by the pandemic have negatively impacted their mental health.

“I would encourage U of U students to sign up for a tour on our website and come see the incredible things we are doing,” Dunford said. “Volunteering is also available.”

Volunteers can help with homework, play games, or even facilitate a friendship circle. Once the volunteer training is done, anyone can sign up for shifts.


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