A Phoenix, Arizona center One-n-Ten: offering programming and services to LGBT youth was the target of arson on July 12th. The blaze was initially believed to be accidental caused by a “combination of improperly stored rags and batteries mixed with a hot, ventilated room”. Luckily, no one was injured in the daytime inferno, but the arson which obliterated the center and all its contents were later found to be deliberately set by someone who accessed their services for years as discovered on recovered surveillance video.
As reported by The Washington Post:
The video shows a man walking up to the LGBT youth center in the middle of a sunny Arizona day, looking around him as he holds a red gasoline can.
He steps into the center and casually pours liquid onto the floor of the rooms. As he walks back outside, closing the door behind him, the floor erupts in flames, the blaze spreading through the rooms of the center.
While initially assessed to be accidental- as of Wednesday, after surveillance footage was recovered and assistance was sought finding the perpetrator, the suspect was identified as 26-year-old Darren William Beach Jr, an individual who accessed the center’s services for several years, until 2016 when he was cut off due to age restrictions.
The article continues:
As soon as One-n-10 staff members saw the video, they immediately recognized the man’s face. The organization said it was “sad to report” that the suspect had used the center’s services on and off for about three years.
“This news hurts,” executive director Linda Elliott said in a news conference Wednesday. “Obviously this young man has issues and needs help.”
The man began using the program services in 2013 and aged out in 2016 once he turned 25, Elliot said. The center staff last made contact with him about two months ago. He apparently also sought services at other organizations in the Valley.
“Someone that you’ve provided services to and helped out, you just would not expect to come back to your center and do this sort of thing,” Elliot said, adding that it was a “total shock.”
She said she does not have any reason to believe the arson was a hate crime. But she said she worries the news will be traumatizing for the youth who use the program’s services.
“Many of them knew this young man, and this is their safe place,” Elliot said. “Someone comes and burns it down … that’s traumatic.”
A number of the young people who come to One-n-Ten struggle with mental illness and behavioral health problems.
“Many of the youth we encounter have been kicked out of their homes because they’re gay,” she said. “They’ve been on the street, they’ve been abused, beat up, sex trafficked.”
Following the initial news of the fire earlier this month, the organization wrote in a Facebook statement that the site would be closed indefinitely.
“Our 24 year old organization was forged by a resilient community, focused on providing youth opportunities, and support service,” the post read.
The center offered activities and an online high school program for LGBT youth. Up to 40 teens and young adults could be seen in the center on any given night, according to the Phoenix Business Journal, and the 3,000-square-foot space served about 1,000 people a year.
Passing by the road on the day of the blaze and “seeing seven firetrucks in front of the building was like a punch in the gut,” Elliott told the Business Journal. The organization lost supplies and electronic equipment, food, hygiene and personal products, and camping equipment.
“Our youth whom we serve have been worried,” the organization said on its website. “Some are shaken. Our staff has been juggling the many issues that surrounded this loss with a great deal of professionalism, but also heartache and long hours.”
This story highlights the plight of those suffering from mental illness in the LGBT community and the lack of access to services. While One-10 was a great service to Beach, once he reached the age limitation he felt at a loss on where to turn. While the story is tragic, and much LGBT youth will be underserved in their time of need, a temporary location is currently open, and One-n-1o has plans to move to a new location, with an anticipated opening date for September.
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You can also view surveillance video of the arson below:
(Article By Tasha Sharifa)