Zebra Coalition moving forward with housing for at-risk LGBTQ youth despite deep funding cuts

Orlando's Zebra Coalition is set to turn an unused downtown hotel into housing for at-risk LGBTQ youth.  Staff said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis denying them $750,000 funding for the project won't stop their mission.

"It is clear to us, just the first few days of Pride Month, the message that this governor has sent to our kids and our community," said Heather Wilkie, Executive Director of the Zebra Coalition.

The Zebra Coalition says 18% of America’s homeless kids are in Florida, and 42% of them identify as LGBTQ. 

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis criticized for LGBTQ vetoes

"Now, the kids that the governor has sent this message to are going to need housing and we aren't supported in that effort. We're trying to build something for this community that we need to do because kids are out on the streets," Wilkie said.

Other LGBTQ charities were also hurt by budget vetoes. The Orlando United Assistance Center lost $25,000 dollars in funding, but one family is stepping up to help them out. Fred and Maria Wright lost their son Jerry in the Pulse tragedy. They're pledging to match funds of up to $25,000 for any donations to the Center. 

"We ask you to join us. Please give to the Center," Maria said. "They were counting on that money that was denied to help and support those still battling with the trauma and injuries of the Pulse attack."

The governor's office responded, in part, that "Governor DeSantis has advocated and secured a significant funding increase for community-based mental health resources statewide – which can and will be distributed to organizations that serve the LGBTQ community [but is not limited to LGBTQ-focused organizations]."

The Zebra Coalition says the hotel will provide housing for 35 at-risk youth. They pledge to move ahead with this project despite not getting the funding for which they’d were hoped.

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