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At this season of holiday gatherings around warm, cozy fireplaces, it's hard to imagine the plight of homeless youth living on the cold streets of Salt Lake City. But they are out there, and their number is growing each year.

These young homeless Utahns have no place to go. There is no home where they are welcome. The state took many of them from their original homes because they were victims or abuse or neglect; they spent years in foster care but have "aged out" of the state system at the age of 18. Others were rejected because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Estimates are that more than 1,000 homeless youth from all corners of the state are living on their own without shelter, mostly in downtown Salt Lake City. The number has increased more than 160 percent in the past five years.

Fortunately, the Volunteers of America, Utah, has taken on the task of helping many of these young men and women, boys and girls. The VOA operates street outreach programs, a Homeless Youth Resource Center and a transition home for girls to help them become independent.

The nonprofit organization is asking for your support so it can also open a transition home for boys and young men 18-26 years old and continue to reach the growing number of youth who are homeless. The transition homes help youth move from the street into jobs and more permanent housing.

The funding campaign will also help expand the services offered at the Homeless Youth Resource Center.

It's a cause that deserves support, at this time of year when many people are looking for good causes, and beyond the holiday season.

VOA has received two generous contributions of $50,000 each from the B. W. Bastian Foundation and the LGBT Community Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation of Utah. Those two donors will match community donations dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 total. Individuals can send donations by logging on to the VOA website, or by mailing a check to Volunteers of America, Utah, 435 West Bearcat Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84115, or by phoning 801-363-9414 ext. 585.

The 1,000 volunteers and 145 staff literally take their services to the homeless on the street. They also help those suffering from substance abuse and domestic violence and operate the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Davis, Tooele and Emery counties and Foster Grandparent Program in Tooele, Emery, Carbon, Grand and San Juan counties.

VOA donations are an easy way to bring homeless youth into the warmth of the season.

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