The Zebra Coalition is getting some new stripes—a new leader and a new home base.
Dexter Foxworth has been the coalition’s director for about three months now. The Zebra Coalition is a network of organizations which provide services to LGBT and questioning youth ages 13–24, whether they need medical care, counseling, emergency housing, transitional housing or education. Foxworth said Zebra’s volunteers reach out to their service partners to provide these services for the young people who need them.
The Zebra House is the Coalition’s headquarters, plus office space for Foxworth and an outreach counselor, a drop-in center, hotline home base and even emergency housing for teenagers who need a place to sleep for the night. The Zebra House’s new location is on North Mills, directly across from Funky Monkey Wine Company and a diagonal walk from The Center.
“Our goal is to move in this summer and be fully functional and operating there,” Foxworth said.
In order for that to happen, Foxworth said it needs, “a lot of volunteers, additional funding and right now we’re looking for folks who can provide services such as electrical and construction to bring this thing to life. We’re really going to rely on the community to get us in there.”
Phil Toll, director of the Center for Drug-Free Living and Foxworth’s supervisor, said the organization wants to renovate but it also needs to ensure that the facility is fully handicap-accessible.
“It’s a drop in center as well as a meeting site as well as office space,” Toll said. “First and foremost we want it to be a site where youth can feel comfortable and be there on a regular basis, whether they’re seeking services or just sharing their experiences with others.”
Foxworth said the funding for the house purchase was provided by the Zebra Coalition via private donations, corporate contributions and grants, but they could still use additional funding and donations can be made at their website, ZebraYouth.org.
Toll said that visibility is the key benefit of their new location.
“It’s in an area of town that has high traffic and very close to The Centers’ location so youth can be referred over,” Toll said. “[The location is] very important from a drop-in perspective, because it’s a place where clients can hang out, do homework, meet with other youth their age and see life can be normal and we can support you through [the coming out] process.”
Foxworth said it’s the Coalition’s policy not to turn away any youth who needs help, and Toll added that the support system is the key to helping LGBTQ youth who are struggling.
“Finding people like [your]self is an important factor when dealing with life’s struggles,” Toll said. “Had there been a place like this when I was going up it would have made my life a lot easier.”
Foxworth added that even once the Zebra Coalition moves into the new location, it will maintain the apartments it uses as traditional housing for their clients ages 18–24, who deal with homelessness the most. According to Foxworth, about 42% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ and 26% of youth who come out to their parents are told to leave home.
He said that Central Florida does not currently have any existing shelters or organizations with the ability or staff to take in those young people in trouble.
Article by Jamie Hyman from Watermark: http://www.watermarkonline.com/w-news/orlando/item/7477-new-home-for-zebra-house