December 8, 2016 at 2:41 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Trans activist hopes to open Richmond homeless shelter

Zakia Mckensey, gay news, Washington Blade

Zakia Mckensey, executive director of the Nationz Foundation, is raising funds to open a shelter for homeless LGBT youth in Richmond, Va. (Photo courtesy of Brad Kutner/GayRVA.com)

A transgender activist in Richmond, Va., has launched a campaign to buy a house that she hopes will become the city’s first LGBT-specific homeless shelter and drop-in center.

The GoFundMe page that Zakia Mckensey, executive director of the Nationz Foundation, created on Nov. 21 has raised $2,274. She hopes to raise $200,000 — $143,000 to buy the house on the corner of Barton Avenue and Dove Street in Richmond’s North Side and $57,000 to make repairs and purchase furniture — by February.

“It’s really important for us to get this house,” Mckensey told the Washington Blade on Tuesday during a telephone interview, noting there is no emergency housing in Richmond for trans people.

She added the city’s homeless shelters require those who seek access to them to not “go in the identity that you present.”

GayRVA.com reported that Mckensey’s mother kicked her out of her home when she came out to her as gay. She later came out as trans.

Mckensey founded Nationz Foundation a year ago.

The organization provides HIV/AIDS testing and a food pantry. Mckensey told the Blade the Nationz Foundation provided HIV/AIDS tests to more than 300 people in 2015.

She said LGBT people are often “turned away” by their families “when we are honest with our loved ones.” Mckensey told the Blade that LGBT youth who find themselves in such a situation often dropout of school or turn to prostitution in order to survive.

Mckensey was also close friends with Noony Norwood, a trans woman of color who was shot to death last month in South Richmond.

“After Noony passed away, it was just beating on my spirit to try and purchase this house,” Mckensey told the Blade.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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