Provo couple opens their home to LGBTQ people

Taylor Steed, center, of Orem, and Nick Maughan, center left, of Provo, laugh at a joke as they and other community members eat during a QueerMeals gathering Saturday, July 7, 2018, at Jeff and Jerilyn Pool's home in Provo, Utah. Though the name of the nonprofit the Pools run out of their home implies that the organization’s mission is all about food, QueerMeals has a larger, overarching purpose beyond just keeping people in Utah County’s LGBTQ community fed. (Isaac Hale/The Daily Herald via AP)

Provo • A Provo family has made their home a sort of sanctuary for members of the LGBTQ community, especially those who need something to eat and a place where they can escape from suicidal thoughts.

Jerilyn Hassell Pool and Jeff Pool run their nonprofit QueerMeals out of their home, the Daily Herald reported.

The people that they serve typically do not have family and community members that they can depend on or have a difficult relationship with the Mormon church, Hassell Pool said.

About half of the people that come in and out of their home daily are struggling with acute suicidal ideation, they said.

“We just want to keep people alive,” Hassell Pool said. “So many people here are not sure they want to live another day.”

Aside from meals, the Pools provide LGBTQ people with support and attention.

They moved to Provo from Oregon in 2016 to work with the LGBTQ community, particularly those trying to find their place in the Mormon church.

As a Mormon herself, Hassell Pool hoped to provide LGBTQ people with a space where they can gather and have a community.

“Our goal is to empower people to thrive, to find healthy and happy outlets for their sexual orientation and gender expression,” she said.

Their effort started as a small operation, but friends encouraged the couple to start a nonprofit after seeing photos on social media of their grocery hauls for the meals they provide.

Cameron Raps, who frequently visits the Pools, said QueerMeals has helped him through difficult times over the past year.

“Jerilyn has been with me for pretty much every step of it,” Raps said. “Pretty much every time that I’ve been in a bad mental state, I will text her.”

Although things are better now, Raps said he still makes a point to stop by at least one a week.

“It’s free, I can come here, hang out, and not be in danger of just being by myself,” Raps said. “I have someone to talk to and things to eat.”