A Viriginia woman and advocate for the LGBTQ community is raising money to buy a house and build a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth and adults.
Zakia McKensey, the founder and Executive Director for Nationz Foundation, created the non-profit more than a year ago. The organization provides people access to HIV testing, healthcare and also has an open food pantry.
Although McKensey has done so much, she still wants to do more. She is now working to raise $200,000 to purchase a home at the corner of Barton Avenue and Dove Street in North Richmond to turn into a shelter for LGBTQ youth and adults. McKensey sees a need not being filled in the community.
Her own personal story involves coming out at 17-years-old to her mother and finding herself homeless.
“When I expressed to my mom that I was part of the LGBTQ community, she kind of put me out. I did what I had to do to survive,” McKensey said. “In [my] work, we've encountered a lot of youth, trans, women of color who are displaced, have no housing and nowhere to go.”
According to the William’s Institute, 40 percent of homeless youth nationwide are from the LGBTQ community.
“We know based on a survey of youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Central Virginia that 30 percent of those people identify as LGBTQ,” said James Milner with Virginia Pride.
It’s a large chunk of the population being underserved, one that McKensey hopes to help.
Milner and Jessica Cook, the youth program director for Side By Side, an organization that helps create a supportive community for Virginia’s LGBTQ youth believe this shelter will help lower the youth homelessness statistic.
“Having a shelter, having a place to provide for people to stay would be a tremendous asset,” Cook said.
McKensey has raised more than $2,000 within two weeks of her $200,000 goal.