Community Rallies to Build First Group Home for LGBTQ Youth
When they realized how many displaced teens were sleeping on the streets, they wanted to create a safe space for them.
No child should be sleeping on the street-- ever.
These are the words of Brad Schlaikowski, co-founder of Courage MKE , a nonprofit organization that provides resources to homeless and struggling LGBTQ youth in Milwaukee, WI.
Brad and his husband Nick are foster parents, and after they took in their first teenager, Annette (pictured below with Brad, left, and Nick, right), they began to realize how big of a problem youth homelessness in their city is, especially for the LGTBQ community. When Annette came out to her parents, she was kicked out of her home. She says she felt threatened at the shelter she fled to because she was gay.
According to recent statistics, LGBTQ teens have a 120% higher risk of becoming homeless compared to heterosexual or cisgender ( a person whose gender identity matches their birth sex) teens .
"Until we became foster parents, we had no idea how many kids in Milwaukee were not sleeping at their parents' homes every night," Brad told TODAY , adding that most are couch surfing, staying at friends' homes and sleeping behind dumpsters or in alleys.
In June of this year, Courage MKE opened the Courage House, the first ever licensed group home for LGBTQ youth in Wisconsin. It wasn't exactly an easy road to get the shelter opened, but after months of contractor disputes, zoning board approvals and several rounds of remodeling, Brad and Nick welcomed their first resident.
The Courage House can legally accommodate five occupants and along with a warm place to sleep, all residents have access to on-site therapy and assistance with getting healthcare, life skills and family reunification. The organization relies on one full-time employee to keep operations at the house running smoothly, and they've also received a ton of support from local volunteers.
"We're really fortunate to have so many amazing people and community leaders that are very passionate about what we're doing and have been doing fundraisers for us throughout the year," Nick said.
Now that the facility is at full capacity, Courage MKE relies heavily on donations to cover the expenses. When the organization met their goal of $70K at their most recent fundraising gala, Brad and Nick breathed huge sighs of relief. While they've worked hard to open Courage House, it's not lost on them how much the community has pitched in to make their dream a reality.
"Courage is more than just a house ... It's more that we're a movement and creating a really, really awesome dialogue in our city and making that change."
There are a number of ways to get involved with Courage MKE, including making a donation on their website or donating goods on their Amazon Wish List . If you're in the Milwaukee area, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer your time; you just have to fill out this form with your availability and interests .
(Source: images Courage MKE Facebook )