SALT LAKE CITY — Well-spoken and pretty, Michelle Densley looks like a typical young mother in Utah.
But just last year, Densley and her three children, ages 5 and under, were homeless after leaving a life of what she called "very profound" domestic violence. She came to Utah in February 2017, where the YWCA Utah offered her help.
However, "I am the least of these (who are homeless)," Densley said.
On Tuesday, Gov. Gary Herbert listened to Densley's story as he toured the YWCA with philanthropist Pamela Atkinson.
"The sad thing about her story is that it's repeated again and again in the state of Utah," Atkinson said. "The great thing is that she's here at the YWCA, that she's safe and she's getting services."
To help those in situations like Densley's, the governor and philanthropist are encouraging Utahns to give to the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund on their 2018 tax form.
If everyone in the Beehive State donates just $2, it will accumulate to "a lot," Herbert said.
"A few dollars can help people," Densley told the Deseret News.
"Since being here, I have been able to get my 5 year old that was nonverbal because of the trauma that he witnessed to start to have words, and my son that had a pressure-of-speech delay because of the violence he witnessed is now speaking well above his age," she said.
Densley is now working on certification to go back to a job as a quality engineer in the medical device industry. She has also been able to witness the criminal justice process as her former partner was charged with seven felonies, she said.
Her future and her children's futures now look brighter and safer.
But the Densleys are just one family among many adults and children who are homeless as a result of domestic violence. More than 225 women and children every day on average are displaced from their homes because of abuse, and domestic violence programs served more than 4,700 people in Utah last year, according to Anne Burkholder, CEO of the YWCA Utah.
"Most abuse occurs in private, but the impact can be very public," Burkholder said.
These numbers have also been going up in the state in recent years, she added.
In 2017, domestic violence survivors — adults and children — outnumbered all other identified subpopulations. Thirty-six percent of these survivors were children, Burkholder said.
More people in need results in a greater need for resources and expertise, Burkholder added.6 comments on this story
The governor hopes that if everyone donates at least a couple of dollars, the YWCA and other programs that benefit from the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund throughout the state can help more people and create "large outcomes" for survivors.
"We have very good people," Herbert said. "We give of our resources. We try to help other people. We're friendly. We're outgoing. We understand."
Free and confidential help and support for victims and survivors of domestic violence is available 24/7 at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) or visiting udvc.org.