Feb 27, 2016

Volunteers helping those leaving FLDS say more and more getting out

FEBRUARY 27,  2016

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Salt Lake City — (KUTV) Volunteers who help those who leave the FLDS community say more and more are getting out.

The recent arrests of FLDS leaders and restrictions volunteers say are just not realistic, they say, are creating a greater need for groups like Holding Out HELP.

The non profit organization held an open house Friday night for its new facility -- one that will essentially act as a halfway house for former FLDS members who have left or were kicked out.

"It's a whole different world!"

Bobby Johnson was born and raised in the FLDS church in Colorado City.

"If you associate with people who leave, then you are no longer worthy," Johnson told 2News. He reached out to a brother who had left and was kicked out at just 14.

"When you're 14, you're just like, 'What the heck am I gonna' do?' So when somebody's there, it's nice."

Tonia Tewell has run HOH the past eight years and says it has been rewarding.

"There are so many people fleeing and fed up with so many of the restrictions put in place after Warren Jeffs went to prison."

And she says she believes with recent indictments among the FLDS leaders, that trend will only continue.

"It is real important we can get them in a structured environment, so they can believe in themselves and know that there is a better way," Tewell said.

At her organization's new home base, she says they offer those in need food, shelter, counseling and they put them in touch with host families, like Bobby's.

"It's been a great experience," Steve Halley said of taking Bobby into their home.

"I was kind of nervous about doing that," Tragina Halley said. "I said I'll do anything but that ... and then, we changed our minds."

The couple, with two biological children already, say they have no regrets and love having a front-row seat to Bobby's inspiring future.

"He's in school for the first time - public school - and doing really well. He is on the honor roll, is student of the month. He is doing great and we are so proud of him."

Holding Out HELP says they're always looking for volunteers and donations, already talking about expanding their new facility.

For more information see: HoldingOutHelp.org.


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