Orlando organization housing LGBTQ youth needs help after missing out on state funding

Zebra Coalition requested $750,000 for housing renovation project

Zebra Coalition, which helps homeless members of the LGBTQ community, says it missed out on critical state funding that would help with a renovation project aimed at expanding efforts to give kids a home.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Zebra Coalition, which helps homeless members of the LGBTQ community, says it missed out on critical state funding that would help with a renovation project aimed at expanding efforts to give kids a home.

“This is ridiculous, that made me so mad, I was shaking because I thought Zebra was going to get more beds, and we’ll get everything they always wanted, what I always wanted,” Reginald Collins said.

Collins is currently being housed by the Zebra Coalition and says he is hurt by the decision from Governor DeSantis’ office to cut Zebra Coalition’s request for funding out the state budget.

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The coalition asked for $750,000 to help renovate the Davis Park Motel off East Colonial Drive.

“This housing program gives youth the opportunity to change their lives around. When youth typically are homeless, they either start selling their body, start doing drugs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen youth probably 6 months ago and I see them now on the streets and they look like their dying,” Collins said,

The Davis Park Motel Renovation Project is set to house 35 homeless LGBTQ youth. Currently, the coalition helps around 400 young people annually, but with the renovation project, that number would triple.

Collins said if anyone needs proof of why this is needed look no further than his own story.

“I had went through so much physical, mental and emotional abuse, I was used for my body, I had to become a nightwalker at one point just to survive,” Collins said.

News 6 asked the governor’s office why the funding was vetoed from the budget.

In a statement, the governor’s office replied, “The state prioritizes funding for projects and initiatives that have a regional impact… Governor DeSantis has advocated and secured significant funding for safe, affordable housing and homelessness crisis prevention to benefit all Floridians – including, but not limited to, LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.”

The governor’s office did suggest organizations like Zebra Coalition apply for funding from DCF, but according to the coalition they already have applied for grants but it’s the public they will need to lean on.

“We have to care because we have to care about all of us and what this is going to look like what is this world going to look like in 10 t 15 years if we don’t take care of our kids,” Heather Wilkie, executive director of the Zebra Coalition said.

The Zebra Coalition said although it will continue its efforts on renovating the motel without more funding, the project will be delayed by months if not years.

If you would like to give the coalition a helping hand click on this link.


About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.