Rainbows may be everywhere during June’s Pride Month, but Florida Governor Desantis made sure no pot of gold lies at the end of the rainbow for Florida’s homeless LGBTQ teenagers.
Desantis’s series of line-item vetoes to the approved Florida State Budget slashed crucial funding to the LGBTQ community. As a result, a group of homeless teenagers seeking bridge housing through the Zebra Coalition finds themselves back on the street.
The Zebra Coalition is a nonprofit organization in Orlando, Florida, dedicated to helping displaced LGBTQ youth find temporary housing. Florida lawmakers approved appropriations for $750,00 to the group to help with renovations and operations. However, Governor Desantis removed the funding from the budget through a line-item veto.
The cost to fund the adolescent housing project was 0.00075% of the $100 billion state budget approved by the Florida legislature last week.
In the United States, 4.2 million youth experience homelessness each year, and 18% of homeless teens live in Florida. The Zebra Coalition is a group of 52 diverse private and public organizations throughout Florida. The mission is to assist LGBTQ youth “facing homelessness, bullying, isolation from their families, and physical, sexual and drug abuse with individualized programs to guide them to recovery and stability.”
The Zebra Coalition has helped over 400 teens get off the streets by providing temporary housing. In addition, leaders in the Zebra Coalition offer each young person an individual care plan to help them learn daily living skills to help them transition to independent living.
According to a study from the University of Chicago, LGBTQ teens are 120% More Likely to experience homelessness. Internal data from the Zebra Coalition show familial rejection is the overwhelming cause accounting for 40% of the cases.
National data from True Colors United shows a similar pattern. Familiar conflict over sexual orientation or gender identity is the most frequent risk factor cited by homeless LGBTQ youth. This data demonstrates that these youth were forced to leave home or ran away after coming out to their families. Others teenagers reported abuse at home as the cause for their lack of a consistent living environment, while others simply aged out of the foster care system.
The Zebra Coalition sought funding through the state of Floria to renovate the building currently used to house homeless LGBTQ teens. Florida lawmakers approved $750,000 in funding to improve the leased building and help with operating costs. The Governor’s veto strips the financing which was designated to cover about half of the expenses.
Executive Director Heather Wilkie told the Tampa Bay Times, “Now we are going to have to go back to square one and figure out how we are going to fundraise. I’m not giving up on the dream, but I’m certainly disappointed.”
The Zebra Coalition funding was not the only LGBTQ group affected by the Desantis vetoes. Despite approval by the Florida legislature, Desantis removed $150,000 in funding for the Orlando United Assistance Center.
The Orlando United Assistance Center provides mental health counseling and employment assistance services to the victims of families of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub murders. The OUAC mission is to “The Center’s mission is to promote and empower the LGBT+ community ad its allies through information, education, advocacy, and support.”
OUAC received funding from Orlando, Orange County Government, Osceola County Government, and Heart of Florida United Way. The OUAC is located in downtown Orlando to help the Pulse nightclub victims recover. Services listed on the website include:
- Case management working directly with an OUAC Case Manager
- Navigation of community resources
- Referrals for mental health and counseling services unique to the individual’s need
- Connection with community resources to help address rent/mortgage assistance, immigration, utility assistance, and transportation issues.
Pride month will continue in Florida, but the LGBTQ targetted vetoes by Governor Desantis will cast a dark cloud on the community’s progress to help improve lives in Florida.